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New traffic lights enhance safety of intersections

Motorists may have started to notice a trend appearing at City of Hamilton’s intersections.

New traffic lights have been erected to replace the older lights in order to come up to date with the newest technology, as well as to provide more safety measures for pedestrians.

“The former lights were installed in the 1980s and the technology is from the 80s,” explains city engineer Patrick Cooper. “We were finding more and more issues with the controls burning up the computer boards.”

The Corporation of Hamilton was no longer able to get replacement parts for the old lights, which meant having to send them back to England to be hand repaired.

The new lights not only have more advanced technology features which are more easily maintained, but they also include better safety features to ensure that pedestrians can cross the road safely and efficiently.

“We also looked at improving the physical nature of the intersections and consulted a traffic engineer in the UK who designed the new intersections,” says Mr Cooper. “A consultant has been brought in to erect the new furniture but our staff are next to them installing all poles, equipment and wiring. That training is necessary so the staff can rewire or reinstall the poles in the event of a hurricane. By the end of it we will be doing a lot of the preliminary work with a final inspection from the UK.”

The Corporation will redesign 20 intersections throughout the City, with four having already been completed or undergoing completion.

The main difference of the PUFFIN, also known as Pedestrian User Friendly Intelligent lights, are the safety feature for pedestrians is the positioning of the walk/don’t walk indicator, which on the PUFFIN system is on the near side light pole rather than across the street.

“This allows pedestrians to face oncoming traffic so that it is clear to them if a car isn’t going to stop,” says Mr Cooper.

The new crossing system is also sensitive to the disabled, he explains.

The pavement slopes down to the road to accommodate wheelchair users and push chairs. This part of the sidewalk also features raised tactile bumps to help direct people, especially the visually impaired, to the push button controller. And each intersection is designed the same and each pole is positioned in the same place so they are easy to locate. At some intersections, depending on the direction of traffic, there are also waste-height poles with just the walk/don’t walk screen to ensure each button is in the same place.

Visually impaired pedestrians can also feel for a cone under the button that will spin when it is safe to cross, rather than an audio cue, which can be misleading and dangerous if the intersection does not have an all red phase where all of the traffic has stopped, Mr Cooper explains.

Other safety features of the new intersections include changes to the sidewalks.

“We have received some complaints from people that we’re narrowing the roads but in fact the curb is being built out just as wide as the parking lanes,” says Mr Cooper. “It now allows a shorter distance for people to cross, which means they are in the road for less time which allows for less time for the light to be red and less time for the traffic to be held up.”

One of the larger of the intersection projects is underway at the corner of Court and Front Streets, which will eventually become the new entrance to the docks.

“That area is fairly dangerous for crossing and this work will really improve things and clean up where trucks were coming out of Number Eight dock,” says Mr Cooper.

Other planned projects for this year include the intersections at Dundonald and Court; Victoria and Court; and Parliament and Court.

Overall, the projects take approximately 55 days to complete, and the Corporation is planning for all the intersections to be completed in the next three years.

“Each intersection is not the same, however,” says Mr Cooper. “Some require curb work and others don’t. When we dig into the ground we find something different every time. Recently, at one intersection, we wanted to transplant a tree but when it came time to remove it we found that both Belco and water lines ran through the root ball. You can’t account for that and can add to the timing of how long the construction will take.”

However, when the intersections are completed the smart technology will help with traffic flow along with the safety aspect.

“The new controls can be worked on remotely and we can change the plans on them. Depending on the time of day we may need to change more green lights going east bound than west bound. There are new road sensors that will help us learn over time how to get the most traffic through the light at any given time.”

Photo by Tamell Simons The new traffic lights in the City of Hamilton have enhanced safety features.

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Published March 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm (Updated March 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm)

New traffic lights enhance safety of intersections

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