Olive Avenue to test high-tech upgrades

MCDOT plans $2.5M traffic signal pilot program

Posted 6/25/20

Traffic passes through the intersection of 91st Avenue and Bell Road in Peoria, one of 52 busy intersections included in the Maricopa County Department of Transportation’s Bell Road Adaptive …

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Olive Avenue to test high-tech upgrades

MCDOT plans $2.5M traffic signal pilot program


County planners continue to partner with cities and agencies as they expand efforts to improve safety and reduce commute times on two key arterial roadways.

Having completed the first phase of their Bell Road Adaptive Signal Technology Pilot Project in 2019, officials at the Maricopa County Department of Transportation are already planning a second phase along Bell Road, as was reported in the Daily Independent.

The innovative technology — called adaptive signal control technology or ASCT — reads current road conditions via sensors installed at intersections to adjust the timing of traffic signals, explained MCDOT’s project leader April Wire, a professional engineer who serves as arterial operations program manager for intelligent transportations systems.

And while the project team prepares for Phase Two the Bell Road project — expanding the current four testing zones to include two more — county leaders have approved a new pilot program, which will implement and test the ASCT system along a 12-mile stretch of Olive Avenue as well.

“Olive Avenue/Dunlap Avenue has received $2.5 million of funding from the Federal Highway Administration through the Maricopa Association of Governments,” Ms. Wire said. “The project will be similar to Bell Road in that it will replace the current signal timing systems with the adaptive signal technology.”

The new project will encompass 28 signalized intersections, from Agua Fria Ranch Road in Youngtown — which at Olive is aligned roughly with 116th Avenue — to the I-17 interchange Phoenix.

Running through multiple jurisdictions, the federally funded project requires close coordination with multiple governmental entities, she said.

“Just like Bell Road, MCDOT is working in conjunction with its partners — the cities of Peoria, Glendale and Phoenix as well as with ADOT,” Ms. Wire said. “It’s the partnership with other municipalities and agencies that allow projects such as these to have a positive impact in the lives of Maricopa County residents.”

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors at its May 20 formal meeting approved measures to launch the Olive pilot project, including an intergovernmental agreement between the county, the Arizona Department of Transportation and the cities of Glendale, Peoria and Phoenix, through which Olive Avenue (called Dunlap Avenue east of 43rd Avenue) traverses.

The project is funded almost entirely through federal sources, with a small portion to be shared by the local partners, according to the IGA document.

“ASCT has been identified as an important tool to provide improved traffic signal timing adjustments in response to varying traffic volumes and congestion. The project is funded from local and federal funds through the MAG Transportation Improvement Program. The total project cost in MAG TIP is $2,522,600 with a combined partner agency match of $143,788. The match is shared in proportion of number of agency signals within the project,” according to the agreement.

The matching funds — paid through local shares of the state’s Highway User Revenue Funds or HURF — are divvied up based on the number of traffic signals residing within each partner’s jurisdiction.

With six traffic signals apiece, the county and Peoria will each contribute $32,301 in matching funds; Glendale has eight signals and will kick in $43,068; Phoenix has 5 signals and will pay $29,918; while ADOT has two and will add $9,200.

The remaining $2.4 million comes from the Federal Highway Administration through its Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Funds program, according to the agreement.

Ms. Wire said construction on Olive Avenue is expected to start in February 2021, with the system being “turned on” in May 2021.

Bell Road Phase 2

The $2.7 million Phase One project completed last year was comprised of 52 intersections across four distinct project areas on Bell Road, including:

  • Area One (21 traffic signals): Cotton Lane to 114th Avenue in Surprise;
  • Area Two (13 traffic signals): 99th Avenue to 73rd Avenue in Peoria, Glendale and county areas;
  • Area Three (10 traffic signals): Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard from Scottsdale Road to Thompson Peak Parkway in Scottsdale; and
  • Area Four (8 traffic signals): 35th Avenue to 19th Avenue in Phoenix.

During Phase One, each of the zones explored how ASCT responds to various traffic challenges.

Zoe Richmond, communications branch manager for MCDOT, earlier in June told the Daily Independent that Phase One of the Bell Road project proved the technology really works.

Instead of attempting to predict traffic patterns, it reads and adjusts to them continuously, she said.

“These signals can help as you have those peaks and valleys of transportation along these corridors,” Ms. Richmond said. “It knows that it’s rush hour and it needs to change the left-turn green to last a little bit longer. But as opposed to scheduling it — saying here’s your rush hours at 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. — it continuously adapts itself. If you have a special event, it picks up on that increase in traffic flow and starts managing the signal cycle differently.”

New technologies and approaches are needed in places like Maricopa County, where building new freeways and arterial roads may not be practical because the urban infrastructure is already at maximum capacity, she said.

“If you look at transportation moving forward, there’s only so much new infrastructure that you can build out,” Ms. Richmond said. “As traffic patterns change, as populations grow, how do you make the assets that you have work smarter? In terms of the question, is it working and are we going to see more of it, the answer is yes. It has been working and, ultimately, this is the way that transportation is moving.”

The county board at their May 20 formal meeting also approved an IGA to launch a second phase along Bell Road. The Phase Two installation will add ASCT at 13 additional intersections in two new project areas, according to the IGA.

“The goal of Phase 2 is to expand Phase 1 deployment and provide a system with the ability to adjust signal operations in real-time, reduce delays, reduce travel times, improve safety to multiple modes of vehicles, pedestrians, transit, and emergency services, reduce vehicle emissions by reducing stops and delays at arterial intersections and the interchanges, improve cross-jurisdictional traffic flow, making travel appear seamless to the driver,” the IGA document states.

Area Five will add the technology at two signals, including the Del Webb Boulevard and Boswell Boulevard intersections in Sun City, connecting to the Bell Road corridor in Surprise.

Area Six will add ASCT to 11 traffic signals between 69th and 39th avenues to expand the test corridor between Glendale and Phoenix.

Ms. Richmond said work on Phase Two will commence in about a year or more.

“For Phase 2 from Loop 303 to Interstate 17, work will actually commence in about 12 to 18 months,” she said.

The project is federally funded with local jurisdictions combing to contribute a little more than $67,000 to the project’s $1.2 million budget.