Relief for Downtown Motorists

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

November 11, 2005

West Main Street is one of the busiest streets in Charlottesville, and now the city is trying to fix the problem. They're starting to apply a new project called the Intelligent Transportation System.

Traffic is really backed up all over Main Street during rush hour, so to improve that, the city came up with this new transportation system that will help with traffic gridlock at a push of a button. Drivers are hoping that this new monitoring system will help speed up the many lights on that road.

"It's always at 5 p.m. It's always when all the students get out of their classes," said Jessica Crystal.

"It's always been bad and it's worse at certain times of the year," said Pam Kelly.

They're both talking about the amount of traffic, which is what Charlottesville residents face on Main Street every weekday. The city looked at recent studies and found there is a lot the they can do to ease the flow.

"Studies have shown in other cities that you can pick up 20-30 percent efficiency on the roads without even building anything, so they approved that and funded it and we got started," said Jim Tolbert.

Over the next several weeks the city will be implementing changes to the intersections, starting with the southbound lanes on West Main and Ridge Street.

"Where now it's a left turn lane and a right turn lane and one center lane, we'll give it two center lanes so that traffic will flow through and then be able to merge back together," said Tolbert.

The intersection of Preston Avenue at McIntire Road the signal sequence will be changed. Green arrows will be added to both turning lanes and eventually, additional left-turns can be made when oncoming traffic is clear.

Until now, for most UVA students, taking a trip downtown means sitting in traffic.

"No one has time to sit in 10 minutes of traffic, 20 minutes of traffic," said Crystal.

Through the new monitoring system Tolbert says he has a way to improve that.

"It will allow the signals to all be coordinated so they're synchronized, so when you start in theory on one end and drive to the other you don't stop at a red light if you go the speed limit," said Tolbert.

The city is already working on the new system and it should be finished in a few weeks. They also plan on also adding cameras to every intersection to help monitor large amount of traffic in special circumstances, such as football games.

The last phase of this system will be complete in 3-4 years.

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