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M-24 goes high-tech


As traffic counts rise, system counts traffic for better flow



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The systemís control center is located in Pontiac. The program is designed to adjust traffic signal timing for better traffic flow. The adjustments are made by a computer, not by a person. (click for larger version)
June 15, 2011 - By Katelyn Crain

Intern Writer for The Review

Most people would agree, that one of the most frustrating things they have to do on a weekday morning is sit and wait at a long red light; especially when they are already late to work. Fortunately, Oakland County Road Commission is working on the cure.

In June of 1992, the Oakland County Road Commission turned on an advanced traffic signaling system in 28 Troy intersections. This system was known as FAST-TRAC and intended to improve the flow of traffic while helping to keep people safe.

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As of today, there are 675 intersections within Oakland County that FAST-TRAC can be found at.

Each intersection that this signaling system has been installed at will contain a vehicle detector that will make the system aware of the automobiles that are present.

These detectors simply count the number of passing cars and control the light time-changes based on the congestion of traffic. With each signal change, the process is restarted, making the time-frame of a "go" or "stop" phase efficient and accurate for the amount of traffic at a specific time.

According to Orion resident Eric Wilson, an Oakland County Road Commission official, "These detectors can't read a plate, they can't see who is driving, -they are strictly there to count the cars. That's all it does. It doesn't involve anything else so we can adapt signals to let people go through quicker."

About 15 of these FAST-TRAC systems are being installed on M-24. The project runs from Silverbell to Drahner Rd, but the section from Brown to Opdyke was done at an earlier time.

Oakland County Road Commission is expecting this project to be finished by late August- early September.

"We don't have the budget to build wider roads, we don't have the budget to build bigger roads, and so what we do is use technology to allow us to move traffic along quicker. And while this technology is not operable yet, we hope it will be in a short period of time," Wilson said.

The annual budget for the Oakland County Road Commission is 105 million dollars. This money comes from gas tax. The flat rate since 1997 has been 19 cents a gallon- and only 15 cents for diesel.

Wilson explained that because of this flat rate, their income has remained the same, while prices for everything else have increased over time- therefore making large, costly projects difficult to attain.

Although the Oakland County Road Commission is establishing a cheaper way to improve traffic flow, their number one priority is safety.

"Most of our people are engineers and their mind set is to try to get things done the best, cheapest, and safest way possible. However, that last one is the most important," Wilson said. "We have the safest roads in the nation, in my mind, as far as road safety and that is a key thing the OCRC has taken upon itself to do in the last 30 years. We are extremely cautious of safety. That's what it's all about."

While working to achieve their goals of safety and efficiency, the Road Commission has big plans for the future of technology and roads as well.

Within time, OCRC plans to install FAST-TRAC at all 1,500 signals in Oakland County. Doing so will reduce more injury accidents, delays, and motorist travel time at intersections.

"The future holds quite a bit that involves technology and the roads," said Wilson. "Anything we can do to protect people from getting hurt, we're going to do it. Safety is the main key- that is really what it comes down to."

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