The light changes from red to green at a Springfield intersection. Most of us never consider the unseen infrastructure or personnel needed for such a mundane appearing task.
In 1998, the City of Springfield partnered with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to create the Transportation Management Center. City and state personnel work beside each other at the Transportation Management Center (TMC) monitoring the computerized traffic signal system and real-time traffic cameras, ensuring lights continue to change from red to green.
Throughout the month of May, Ozarks Transportation Organization will be highlighting several of the functions of the TMC including: projects, signal timing and incident response.
The TMC is involved in a variety of projects, including annual maintenance, infrastructure upgrades and new signal construction.
Eric Claussen is a professional engineer with City of Springfield’s Public Works Transportation Management Division. In addition to being over the signal system, Claussen is also project manager for the capital improvement projects.
At the Surface
According to Claussen, Springfield uses a few different detection devices at intersections. Several use video or radar to determine if a car is present at an intersection. Some intersections use induction loops cut into the pavement.
“Those induction loops in the freezing and thawing throughout the year will sometimes break,” Claussen said. “When they malfunction the default in the controller is a constant call.”
A constant call means the system is tricked into thinking a vehicle is waiting at the light nonstop. Claussen explained this default ensures vehicles will receive a green light instead of a constant red light. In other words, the lights will continue to cycle through red yellow and green.
The signal is technically still working, however not as efficiently as it could and the malfunction could throw off signal timing at subsequent intersections.
“We pride ourselves on getting that intersection back up and operational within a couple days of learning it is malfunctioning,” Claussen said.
Crews recently replaced the induction loops at the Battlefield Mall entrance on Sunset just west of Glenstone. A few photos of the crews working at the intersection were taken by Ruth Clayton, inspector for City of Springfield, and can be found throughout this article.
The TMC is also working on a streetscape project on Jefferson Avenue from Park Central East though Water Street. While the public will notice new sidewalks, street lights and signal lights at Jefferson and Olive, Claussen explained most of the work will never been seen.
“It’s only two blocks long, but we are redoing the storm water infrastructure all the way down and there is quite a bit of City Utilities gas and water along it as well,” Claussen said.
The Jefferson streetscape project is scheduled to last five months and Claussen said the public can have a hard time understanding why projects last so long when they only see a fraction of the work taking place.
“Why was it an inconvenience for five months? There is all this unseen [infrastructure] that has to be done as part of these projects,” Claussen said.
The TMC will soon be starting an intersection project, including signals, poles, cabinets and detection system, at Campbell and Primrose and has just finished a widening project on Primrose that also included the signal at Primrose and Kings. Similar to the streetscape project, many of the improvements to these intersections are unseen by the public.
“[A]t Kings & Primrose,” Claussen said, “we installed CU gas and water, stormwater inlets and pipes along both sides of the roadway, communications conduit under the sidewalk, conduits and bases for CU street lighting, and underground infrastructure for our traffic signal (conduits and wiring to go from the cabinet to each signal head, button, or detector). Above ground, you see the wider street pavement, new signal poles, new streetlights; but there is a lot that occurs under the surface.”
This week focused on projects and how unseen infrastructure can affect the timing of their completion. Next week, learn how timing of signals is crucial for the TMC’s coordinated traffic plan, keeping the Springfield drivers commute smooth.