Thursday, 05 December 2019 14:00

NCDOT’s centralized traffic signal upgrade nabs national award

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RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Transportation has won a national award for modernizing and centralizing many of its traffic signals in smaller towns and rural areas across the state. The upgrade allows the department to better monitor the signals and more quickly make timing adjustments that improve traffic conditions.

The award, which the National Operations Center of Excellence announced Thursday, recognizes the NCDOT’s effort since 2018 to upgrade about 500 traffic signal locations in what are called closed-loop systems, mostly in towns such as Clayton and Garner outside Raleigh and in several suburbs around Charlotte. Several hundred more closed-loop signals will be centralized in the coming years.

“Connecting these signals and systems to a statewide centralized server allows us to remotely monitor them from anywhere and streamlines our ability to ensure proper and optimal operation,” said Matthew Carlisle, the state signal systems engineer for the NCDOT.

This is the second year in a row the NCDOT has been recognized by the NOCoE, which is a Washington, D.C.-based partnership of three national transportation-minded associations or institutes. Last year, the center named the department the overall winner for its response to Hurricane Florence. The department’s Statewide Transportation Operations Center was lauded for using information and other tools to maximize roadway efficiency and safety during a major crisis.

This year, the NCDOT won the Transportation Systems Management and Operations Award in the Agency Improvement category for beginning to shift closed-loop traffic signals to a central server. The upgrade does not affect signal systems in the state’s larger cities, which already coordinate and centrally monitor their traffic signal networks.

Under the project, the signal systems on state-maintained roads have been connected to a centralized signal system over a private, secure network. The system can immediately notify the department’s Traffic Operations office of any problems. Previously, the NCDOT had to primarily rely on the public to notify the agency of a malfunctioning traffic signal.

Additionally, staff from a central office can now make signal timing adjustments for unexpected traffic conditions, such as crash or other incident that is diverting drivers through a town.

The upgrade will provide the department with much more traffic data to assist the annual retiming program, which is a data-driven process that allows the department to optimize hundreds traffic signals each year.