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Thumbs up: Signal work aids city's traffic flow

Sep. 29, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

The Tri-State does not have the traffic problems of many major metro areas, where daily commutes involve hours of bumper-to-bumper congestion.

But travel through Huntington has been hampered for many years by an aging system of traffic signals. While the system was designed for synchronization, over time the communication between signals and intersections had broken down.

In a city that is long and narrow, that meant motorists traveling along the primary corridors often caught every red light in town. All those idling vehicles also added to pollution and degraded the city's air quality.

A long-awaited upgrade to improve that traffic flow is now in place and showing results.

Thanks to a $3.67 million Congestion, Mitigation and Air Quality federal grant, the city has replaced the signal system on 3rd and 5th avenues between 5th and 31st streets and on 4th, 6th and 7th avenues in the central business district. This summer, the final step was taken to tie all of that into a central signal management center at the Rahall Transportation Institute.

According to the initial data, trips along 5th Avenue now take about 25 percent less time.

The RTI center actually has different timing patterns for different times of the day to adjust for the volume of traffic and to minimize the number of stops for vehicles traveling at the posted speed limit. We hope that will encourage drivers to maintain reasonable speeds, rather than racing from one signal to another as has often been the case in the past.

The work also highlights the growing expertise of the Rahall Transportation Institute, which is now involved in managing traffic plans in Morgantown, Teays Valley and Elkins, with projects in Charleston, St. Albans and Lewisburg on the way.

The Tri-State has many infrastructure challenges, so it is encouraging to see improvements on at least one front, making travel faster, safer and cleaner.

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