Every year the state department of transportation invests more than $10 million in replacing, installing and updating traffic signals. For the past couple years these projects have included cameras.
“The signal needs to know where the traffic is at in the intersection,” said Kevin Nursick, spokesperson for the DOT. “Cameras see all legs of the intersection and tell the signal controller where the traffic or cars or motorcycles are on a visual basis.”
The state chooses four project locations each year, one in each corner of the state. This year between 10 and 20 traffic signals in East Lyme will be replaced.
Before cameras, the state used loop detectors which are placed under the road surface and rely on the electromagnetic field of the car to adjust the signal. The problem with loop detectors is they needed to be replaced each time the road was repaved. In addition, they were prone to failure if the asphalt above was damaged or cracked.
“If you got a break in the wire of a loop detector the signal would revert to a default, safe, protective mode, and people notice,” Nursick said. “They write to us when something is wrong with the signals, and there are many, many, many cases of signal malfunction because of bad loop detectors.”
Cameras are not interrupted by paving projects, car accidents or road damage. In addition, cameras allow for remote traffic management.
“Cameras allow us to actively interface with the signal at the location. We can make adjustments to the operation to contend with unexpected incidents such as an accident on the interstate that increased traffic,” Nursick said. “There is a lot more variability and flexibility in the new system.”
This year, in Danbury, one of the other four project sites, a new system using the camera’s abilities is being installed to activate lights on wrong way signs lining entrance ramps to the highway.
“The camera is modified so that it can detect when the vehicle is traveling the wrong direction, like going up one of the ramps instead of down,” Nursick said. “If this were to happen lights around the wrong way signs would start flashing to catch the driver’s attention.”
This technology will be installed at some of the more confusing 700 entrance ramps across the state over the next few years.
The cameras are not storing data on license plates, speeds or pedestrians, Nursick said. They will only be used for signal operations and traffic management.