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Traffic signal updates

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
March 16, 2018

New updates to Rohnert Park’s Traffic Signal Upgrade Program were given full support by the Rohnert Park City Council Tuesday evening after the council received a report on the updates, all of which aim to make the traffic signals more effective and streamlined for motorists, who are often stuck in long lines waiting for a traffic light to change on the Expressway.

Three programs that will serve as an instrumental upgrade to the city’s out-of-date traffic signal system hope to be completed this year and city council gave supportive direction to continue  each project.

City staff first began implementing the projects in the 2016/2017 fiscal year but wanted to update the council on the program and get feedback on the three different projects that are in the works.

Council member Amy Ahanotu did indeed give his support for the much needed upgrades and said they would like to see these traffic solutions started as soon as possible. Ahanotu mused that he often has a long southbound light to wait through coming in from Santa Rosa.

“The sooner the better!” he said of the traffic light upgrades.

Mayor Pam Stafford echoed Ahanotu’s thoughts, mentioning that with RP’s known traffic issues, this could be quite beneficial. 

“This sounds great,” Stafford said of the plans.

According to an agenda item report prepared by Rohnert Park Developmental Services Director, Mary Grace Pawson, the goal of the projects is to, “Improve both service and safety throughout the City.” 

The scope of the projects will work to replace old traffic signal cabinets and controls and to better connect the cables that help run the city’s traffic signals.

The first project in question is the PASS Grant Project, a grant that will be used for the completion of a comprehensive review and reprogramming of Rohnert Park’s traffic signals on two of the city’s most clogged thoroughfares, Rohnert Park Expressway and Golf Course Drive.

Back in August of 2017 the PASS — Program for Arial System Synchronization, grant was obtained by the city from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission serves nine counties in the Bay Area and its “One Bay Area Grants,” is projected to provide around 80 million in grants for local projects from 2018 to 2022.

“One significant value of the PASS grant program is that it allows the city to complete a comprehensive retiming effort with Caltrans, which helps ensure that the signals on the two busiest corridors in the City are as coordinated as possible,” Pawson wrote. 

And what’s more, is that the traffic lights, “...Will work better together to try to improve the delays of around 40-46 minutes,” Pawson said.

The review process for recommendations on how to time the lights has already been completed and city staff estimates that retiming of the light will take place later this spring.

The second project that is also in an effort to help ease traffic tension, is the implementation of an Advanced Traffic Management System with a traffic engineer consultant. RP is working with WTrans and its signal maintenance coordinator, DC Electric, to create and use an interconnected, computerized control system for Rohnert Park Expressway and Golf Course Drive.

Benefits of the new-spangled, high-tech system include being able to, “...Allow the signal timing to respond to (traffic) congestion in real time… this will allow for more rapid manual response to changed conditions,” the report states. The last step in getting this project off the ground includes choosing a software system, which the signal control will be run on.

Lastly, the intersection of Redwood Drive and Golf Course Drive will get a much-needed improvement with the reconfiguration of the eastbound leg of the area in an attempt to improve traffic flow in the area. Stafford voiced that instead of updating the light, adding a shared eastbound left lane could be a good idea.

RP has had a fairly long history of traffic troubles and the issue often comes up in annual community surveys.

The city’s 2018 community survey results were just released. 29 percent of 2,600 survey participants said RP’s traffic flow was poor and 38 percent reported it was fair. And less than half rated traffic flow as good, with only 31 percent of participants rating it as “good.”

On one survey question that city staff has been asking each year — “If RP could do one think different to improve, what would it be,” the overwhelmingly popular answer was traffic. 

“This is probably the worst result in the survey. People are not viewing traffic flow as a positive and the level of service for the Expressway is an F and people are not happy with that,” said City Manager Darrin Jenkins.

But this plethora of upgrades will try to change this failing traffic grade and make it easier and less stressful for motorists.

“We really want to implement these traffic improvements by the end of this summer,” Pawson said.