New technology could make Colorado Springs traffic flow smoother

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Do you ever hit red light after red light while driving through the city or do you see cameras watching you as you are sitting at an intersection? FOX21 got an inside look at the city's traffic operation center.

Now we're not talking about red light cameras, these are just cameras that the city uses to make sure traffic is running smoothly. 

The city used to have traffic sensors in the ground, but with they got messed up with snow, constant driving, and road work they had to be torn up. Now, new technology is being introduced to make daily commutes smoother.

Now Colorado Springs will boast three types of traffic monitoring devices that are watching city drivers. 

Firstly, there are 600 traffic detection cameras around the city which can detect trucks, cars, bikes and people that are behind the stop bar on the road and are used to turn the light green.

The second type is a monitoring camera, that city staff uses to monitor the local situation. There are 128 of them around town.  

Now the city has radar which is a newer traffic technology that gives the city a future view of the intersection about 800 feet out.  

Traffic Engineer Kathleen Krager explained that the current detection cameras do the best that they can, but they aren't instantaneous like many drivers want.  

"All it takes for the person walking in front of the monitor and it changes from red to green," said Kathleen, "No need to honk your horn, no need to dance on top of your hood, it will turn that camera green just as soon as it can." 

But why are they on some intersections and not others?

"We chose corridors where we are trying to progress signals for a long period along that corridor, if you drive the posted speed, you are going to catch green light after green light after green light," Krager said. "If you are someone who is finding that you are stopping red light after red light after red light, on an arterial street, my first suggestion would be to drive the posted speed limit. Instead of 5-10 miles over." 

FOX21's Carly Moore decided to take a ride with a local, Aaron Goodman, who wasn't too sure about the claim. 

"We live in these trucks," said Goodman. "The traffic lights in this town is just horrible." 

He believes the stop and go traffic caused him to get in a motorcycle accident. 

"There was sand on the road. I was knocked out on impact. I had an 800 pound bike dragging me down academy at 40 mph." 

So first we drove north on Academy Blvd., what the city calls a main arterial street.  

"In theory from what they are saying, we are supposed to have green lights all the way through, but we stopped," said Goodman.  

Goodman only hit a couple of red lights, but for most of the drive along main streets it was green lights all the way. Still, he wasn't convinced, granted we did go driving on a weekend. 

"Its a weekend now too. It's 3:45 on Saturday and there's no traffic. This is the most dead I've ever seen it during the day," said Goodman.  

The city's monitoring cameras are watched 12 hours a day so that staff at the traffic operations center can see what's going on at intersections. They can even change the lights if there's a lot of traffic or direct police if they need help finding accidents.  

"We are able to look at the cameras on the screens behind me so we can tell what's going on," said Krager.  

Now, thanks to a $7 million grant from the state, the city is able to add radar technology to several city intersections.  

"That will be a white looking box that is sort of wavy in front," Krager said. "That is radar that can identity type of vehicle and speed of vehicle about 800 feet out."

That money is not just for equipment, but it also funds staff to program the new system as well. 

Currently, the radar boxes are installed on just three streets including Highway 24 west, Powers Blvd., and Colorado Ave.  

"I think we are going to be able to improve our signal timing ultimately in the city quite a bit," noted Krager.  

While the cameras are always on, the Colorado Springs Traffic Operation Center doesn't record any of the videos because they would need a massive archive system and staff to handle it. 

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