San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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November 25th, 2008
City says travel time cut by 20 percent with synchronized traffic lights


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.

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10 thoughts on “City says travel time cut by 20 percent with synchronized traffic lights

  1. Im glad this is actally going into effect, it is very needed. I hate leaving school and being stuck for like 30 minutes in traffic on Aquarena. I have a quick question to the Mercury – This article says the post is written by Brad Rollins, however at the top of the article it says it’s from the City of San Marcos, which is true? Im a student at Texas State and our Political Science teacher makes us read san marcos mercury,, daily record, and and on this site there is that question in my mind as to who writes these articles, and if you look on Newstreamz the same article said it’s written by one of their reporters, but it is vastly different (the article is) and the record had a completely different article also attributed to their staff. However, Newstreamz nor the record say it’s from the city of san marcos. How is that so? did u guys just let the city write for you, or are the other media outlets not attributing well, even though both their articles are very different from the mercury’s, which would lead me to believe that their reporters/staff did actually write their stuff. I dont know, Im just curious.

  2. or is only the picture from the City of San Marcos since it is in the same bold writing that the caption on the picture by Don Anders is in, and Brad wrote the article? Ugh, Im confused… lol

  3. The ‘this post was written by’ attribution ought to say ‘posted by’. The wording of this feature is built into our Web site’s content management system and it is admittedly less than ideal. This particular article was posted by me and written by the city of San Marcos’ spokesperson, thus ‘From the city of San Marcos.’ Thank you for your inquiry. We really should probably clean this issue up. Brad

  4. By the way, I think its great that you are required to read the various media/new media outlets in San Marcos. Not many decades ago, every city of any size had at least two — often many more — newspapers, a phenomenon that was lost with media consolidation that occurred across many sectors. Now, it is rare to find a city of any size that has more than one major daily newspaper. The Internet however is creating conditions that allow multiple, decentralized voices. Out of curiosity, what have you observed about the difference between the various outlets, politically speaking.

  5. I will add here that entities often issue press releases, which the mediums use rather freely. If we just throw the press release up there without changing it, we give the “byline” to the entity that put out the release. More often than not, we put in additional information, add background and rewrite press releases in our news and sports sections and it becomes a “staff report” because we actually did reporting. That’s if we use the press release at all. When all the reporting is original, we use our bylines.

    To answer your main question, I would just say to read the three stories you referenced. You see here the version put out by the city. To the extent that the others added information, you can tell how much original reporting they did. Obviously, we don’t claim to have done any on this particular piece, which tells of an event that is ceremonial in nature, though certainly newsworthy.

  6. I believe this was largely ceremonial, as this system has been online for awhile (according to engineering). I question whether it is working as expected. As Alicia points out, traffic on Aquarena Springs is a BIG problem. EVERY night when I come home, I take Aquarena from 35 to Sessom and EVERY night I exit and the green light on the northbound access road leads to a red light on the other side of the underpass. After a brief pause, that light turns green and I hit a red light at Thorpe. That one is a longer wait. After it turns green, I get to Post just as that light is turning red and I have to wait for the entire cycle.

    I have raised this issue many times over the last few months and the timing on that street is still not right.

  7. I don’t see why TxDot won’t create two left turn lanes on east-bound Aquarena Springs for those turning onto the I-35 frontage road. They recently did some work on Aquarena Springs near Sac-N-Pac, removing an island. I was hopeful they would fix it then but they haven’t. I think it will take more than signal work to fix the traffic in this town. We need to extend Craddock all the way to Yarrington, for example.

  8. I live in Kyle but I’m frequently in San Marcos. Until someone figures out how to build/payfor fixing the problem with the slow moving, horn blowing trains blocking the main east/west streets, San Marcos will never flourish.

  9. Never flourish? Seems like we have a pretty vibrant and flourishing community if you ask me. We really don’t want to be Austin if that is what you mean by flourishing. We CERTAINLY do not want to be Kyle with all the crap homes, oops, I mean tract homes.

  10. Dog,
    If you thought I was singing the praises of Kyle’s appearance, you misread.
    I meant what I said about the train problem in San Marcos – it is a serious problem that will cost a lot of money to fix.
    And you may consider San Marcos to be flourishing. Under the covers it may be flourishing, but frankly the visible sprawl along the major thoroughfares like hwys 80 & 123, and the I35 frontage road is really, really, ugly. Maybe you see it so often that you don’t really see it at all anymore. Or maybe you see it only as a money/jobs generator and don’t care about the physical appearance. Years ago, San Marcos could have imposed good controls to mandate attractive buildings – but they didn’t. And yes, Kyle could mandate better buildings – but they aren’t.

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