PHOTO by DON ANDERS
Mayor Susan Narvaiz and Don Nyland, Area Engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation, flip the switch to activate the synchronized traffic signal system across the City of San Marcos. L-R are Sabas Avila, Interim Director of Capital Improvements, Robert Stuard, Deputy District Engineer, Austin District, Don Nyland, Mayor Narvaiz, Council Member Fred Terry, Assistant City Manager Laurie Anderson and City Manager Rick Menchaca.
From the city of San Marcos
San Marcos motorists are discovering that driving across town is smoother sailing with the completion of the traffic signal synchronization project.
Mayor Susan Narvaiz Tuesday flipped a ceremonial switch activating the city’s synchronized traffic signal system and taking over controls from the Texas Department of Transportation.
The city of San Marcos has taken control of the operation of 49 traffic lights throughout San Marcos—now interconnected, computer controlled, and synchronized to help mobility. Until now, the Texas Department of Transportation maintained and operated 44 of the city’s 50 signals.
“San Marcos has a daytime population that exceeds 80,000 people—with students commuting to Texas State University, as one of the top tourist destinations in the state and as the gateway to the Texas Hill Country,” said Mayor Narvaiz. “Our citizens and our visitors welcome this project as a way to ease traffic congestion in our city.”
The traffic signal project began with the approval of an agreement with TxDOT to share the cost of the $2.2 million project in 2002. Design also started in 2002 and construction in 2006. The cost to the City was $1.2 million. Annual cost to operate the system is estimated at $150,000.
Officials estimate that the synchronized signals will cut 20% off travel time across town, reducing fuel costs and emissions.
The project has involved reconstructing about 15 percent of the traffic signals and upgrading the rest. Video detectors at intersections are used to spot the presence of vehicles. Additionally, countdown-pedestrian signal heads were installed to improve pedestrian safety at high pedestrian traffic locations in the downtown and university areas.
A radio network links each traffic signal to a central computer at the City Hall complex. Information is continually transmitted to the computer to keep all of the traffic signals in synchronization. From the computer, city staff can monitor, evaluate, upload, and download traffic signal timing and coordination plans.
With the exception of Interstate 35 at State Highway 80 and Interstate 35 at Wonder World Drive, all the traffic signals in the San Marcos city limits are now maintained by the City’s Public Services Department Transportation Division. To report problems or issues, residents may call 393-8036.
Under the agreement with TxDOT, the city will be reimbursed for maintenance of four major signals at I-35 intersections at Guadalupe (Loop 82), Aquarena Springs (Loop 82), Highway 80, and Center Point Road.
“The signals will improve traffic flow and reduce delays on existing city streets,” said Sabas Avila, Interim Director of Capital Improvements. “By improving efficiencies at existing intersections, we can delay additional dollars to widen streets and add more lanes.”
In the next month, TxDOT will begin installing a new traffic signal at Ranch Road 12 (E. Hopkins) and Cheatham Street and reconstructing traffic signals on Hopkins at CM Allen, Edward Gary, and IH 35 and State Highway 80 under another contract.
The city will also maintain these signals.