Wait times will be significantly reduced, by approximately 20 percent, at San Marcos traffic lights. At least that is the hope and expected result of a new city wide program that San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz calls “a great thing for the city.” In a press conference Tuesday Narvaiz flipped a ceremonial switch activating the City’s synchronized traffic signal system and taking over controls from the Texas Department of Transportation, TxDOT. Until now, TxDOT maintained and operated 44 of the City’s 50 signals.”It’s exciting today for this project to actually come to fruition,” said Narvaiz.
The synchronization system is designed to improve traffic flow and mobility in 49 traffic lights throughout San Marcos, while enabling the city to operate the system, instead of TxDOT, and refine local response to traffic issues.
Sabas Avila, Interim Director of Capital Improvements, said synchronizing traffic signals lessens traffic congestion without having to widen streets and add more lanes. He said capacities are maximized at minimal costs.
“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 Narvaiz. “Our citizens and our visitors welcome this project as a way to ease traffic congestion.”
A slide show presented by Avila stated San Marcos as having a lack of synchronization, aging traffic signals that lacked communication between each other, and limited TxDOT resources. It went on to state that the new traffic signal system alleviates those deficiencies, while putting forth benefits, such as, minimizing travel time, reducing vehicle emissions, and fuel savings.
“Many cities do not have a synchronized system,” said City Manager Rick Menchaca. “We are one of the few that do.”
The $2.2 million project began in 2002 with the approval of an agreement with TxDOT to share the cost; the city was responsible for $1.2 million and the state agency would put forth $1 million. Construction of the system began in 2006, after city funding became available. The annual cost to operate and maintain the system is estimated at $150,000.
A radio network links each traffic signal to a central computer, through which information is continually transmitted in efforts to keep the traffic signals synchronized. The central computer serves as a tool for city staff to monitor, evaluate, upload and download traffic signal timing and coordination plans.
The project called for the reconstruction of about 15 percent of the traffic signals in San Marcos and provided for upgrades to those left intact. Countdown-pedestrian signal heads were installed to improve pedestrian safety in the downtown and university area.
The City’s Public Services Department Transportation Division will maintain all the traffic signals in the San Marcos City Limits, with the exception of Interstate 35 at State Highway 80 and Interstate 35 at Wonder World Drive. To report problems or issues, residents may call (512) 393-8036.
“In the next month, TxDOT will begin installing a new traffic signal at Ranch Road 12 (E. Hopkins) and Cheatham St., and reconstructing traffic signals on Hopkins at CM Allen, Edward Gary, and IH 35 and State Highway 80 under another contract,” stated a city press release. “The City will also maintain these signals.”
by Andy Sevilla
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