Downtown driving commutes are shorter, thanks to traffic management system improvements

A complete revamping of traffic signal timings has taken place in downtown Minneapolis. The result is shorter drive times, reduced congestion and lower exhaust emissions. By this time next year, traffic signal timing improvements will be made citywide.

Measurements of downtown commute times under the new system will take place over the next few months. Preliminary data indicates travel times have been reduced dramatically. Along Washington Avenue between 6th Avenue North and Interstate 35W, peak time commutes are down by 25 percent or more.

This is the start of a complete modernization of traffic signal timing throughout Minneapolis. The work will help improve transportation in the city, whether it’s in a car, on a bus or train, on a bike or on foot. The goals are to reduce motor vehicle emissions, reduce driving delays and increase time pedestrians have to cross streets at signalized intersections.  Downtown was the first part of the city to be phased in. Work is ongoing on the rest of town, with traffic signal timing expected to be completed in spring 2014 for south Minneapolis and in summer 2014 for north Minneapolis.

The centerpiece of the improvements is the updated Traffic Management Center. Equipment there that was originally installed in the 1970s has been replaced. Now, traffic engineers can better monitor traffic flows and make changes to traffic signal patterns to respond to congestion or prepare for special events. At the signalized intersections, old and obsolete traffic signal controllers and cabinets were replaced and crews installed new traffic signal timing programs in every one of them.

The last time comprehensive traffic signal timing was done in Minneapolis was in 1991. Traffic patterns have changed a lot since then. Plus, new and better equipment and software is now available that will let the City manage traffic flow better than ever before.

The total project cost is $11.2 million, which includes replacing outdated traffic signal controllers and the signal central control system and the retiming of more than 800 traffic signals. Approximately 80 percent of the funding comes from a federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant.  The remainder comes from Hennepin County, local and state funding.

For more information, visit the project’s webpage.

Published Sep. 3, 2013