Mayor Jim Gray had good news Thursday for motorists frustrated with Lexington traffic.
Gray announced a series of upgrades in the timing and coordination of traffic signals that are expected to reduce congestion, improve traffic flow and result in fewer traffic delays.
The changes, which will cost more than $2 million, should result in less overall gas consumption, Gray said, welcome news at a time gas prices are pushing near $4 a gallon.
Time spent on everyday driving during non-rush hour times should decline by 15 to 20 percent, said Steve Cummins, the city's traffic signal manager. During rush hour, improvements will be much smaller, he warned.
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"At afternoon peak rush hour, there are so many cars hitting the roadway at the same time," Cummins said. "Traffic signal time amounts to only about 5 percent of all congestion sources."
The majority of upgrades will take place behind the scenes over the next six months, Cummins said. For example, the city will install a more advanced computerized traffic management system that is expected to last 10 years.
A $500,000 U.S. Department of Energy block grant that was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act paid for the software program.
One upgrade motorists will see is hundreds of flashing yellow turn arrows, which the city began installing last May. Already, the program has reduced collisions significantly.
At 75 intersections with new turn arrows, left-turn collisions are down 17 percent over six months, Cummins said. Injuries from left-turn collisions are down 22 percent.
Yellow arrows are scheduled to be installed at 256 intersections throughout the city.
Once other traffic signal upgrades are made, there will be fewer 60- to 90-second waits at traffic lights, Cummins said.
"You're going to see that (time) come down significantly," he said.
Signal upgrades also will help "tremendously" when moving traffic in and out of special events, Cummins said.
Commonwealth already has the fastest time among all Southeastern Conference stadiums for getting football fans out of parking lots and on their way. According to UK traffic data, "in about 35 minutes, you can get out of your seat, into your car and into the main flow of traffic," Cummins said.
The $125,000 flashing yellow arrow program and $1.5 million traffic signal control program are funded primarily through federal grants and state funds, said Cheryl Taylor, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Quality and Public Works.