Drivers in the Centennial area could soon find themselves moving through the traffic of the future. “We realized a long time ago, we can’t build our way out of traffic,” said Stephanie Piko, …
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Centennial's system of underground fiber-optic cable helps enable the city's "intelligent" traffic projects. Here's an explainer on how that system works: All about Centennial's fiber-optic 'backbone'
The traffic project on Yosemite Street has ties to the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance, a coalition of cities, tech companies and universities that aims to tackle issues such as transportation and the environment. More on the alliance: ‘Colorado Smart Cities’ effort shifts focus toward results
Drivers in the Centennial area could soon find themselves moving through the traffic of the future.
“We realized a long time ago, we can’t build our way out of traffic,” said Stephanie Piko, Centennial mayor, at the Sept. 3 city council meeting.
By early 2020, Centennial’s Intelligent Transportation System may be on the way to making some traffic signals adapt to better fit traffic flows. The ITS — which will ultimately be a combination of traffic vehicle sensors, signal controllers and a central management system — will track traffic levels and adjust traffic signal timing accordingly.
The city’s “ITS master plan” bears a roughly $6 million cost, said Craig Faessler, a traffic engineering official with the city.
“The price tag, it sounds high, but compared to construction of a road or lane or infrastructure,” it’s a better fiscal option, Piko said.
A major tipping point in the traffic system’s development is the implementation of a pilot — or starter — project on South Yosemite Street, which has become a common alternative for drivers to skirt the highway traffic on Interstate 25 south of Denver.
Borne of an idea from early 2017, Centennial, Lone Tree and Greenwood Village are collaborating on the project on that road, which runs through all three cities. Under a flashy name — Project Mercury — sensors will gather data on Yosemite Street all the way from Lincoln to Belleview avenues.
The data will develop a picture of traffic volume at certain points during the day, along with time spent waiting at stoplights. After the initial data collection phase, traffic lights will be coordinated in an adaptive system to make their timing more responsive to traffic flows.
So far, sensors have been installed, and are collecting data, in Lone Tree and Centennial.
The cities expect to implement the system after the holidays, according Seth Hoffman, Lone Tree’s city manager.
“If we see the success with Project Mercury, it could be certainly deployed to other corridors,” Faessler said.
The ITS involves Centennial’s underground network of fiber-optic cable, which was completed in late 2018 after construction that began in 2016. The fiber backbone, as it’s often called, allows access to faster internet speeds.
The rest of the Centennial will be able to use the new traffic technology later in 2020 and 2021 as the planned upgraded traffic engineering fiber network gets deployed in phases.
“Until then, we have operated signal timing based on manual inputs to our central system and signal controllers,” said Allison Wittern, Centennial spokesperson.
A smart system
Eventually, the ITS will be a harmony of many technologies: The city has 62 intersections at which closed-circuit TV cameras are already operational and they verify traffic incidents, allowing operators to manually adjust signals in response.
Twenty sensors by software company Blyncsy along the Yosemite corridor in Centennial will support making signals adaptive. Lone Tree also has 20 Blyncsy sensors, according to Wittern.
On top of that, 38 BlueTOAD sensors — already deployed along that corridor and other areas throughout the city — will support ITS technology. The BlueTOAD sensors measure the time it takes for cars to travel from one sensor to another using Bluetooth signals. They assign temporary anonymous IDs — individuals aren’t identified, officials noted at the council meeting. That measurement gauges traffic along major roads, and that information can be used to adjust signals, Wittern said.
In 2018, 83 signal controllers — essentially computers that sit in boxes at intersections — were all upgraded and will be used with the adaptive signal control technology beginning in 2020.
Even the city’s 32 school zone flashing beacons — all installed by 2018 — are controlled by the city’s Traffic Management Center remotely, deciding when they are turned on or off. The center is located in the city’s public works building.
Centennial’s cameras, Yosemite Street sensors, school zone blinkers and signal controllers will connect to the city’s fiber network, which also connects with the central systems located at the traffic management center.
Implementation of the ITS master plan began in 2017. In 2019, “Package 1” of the traffic fiber network began, with work on connecting the signals on Yosemite and Chester streets to the fiber backbone. That work will end this year or in early 2020.
Next year, under “Package 2,” the rest of the city’s traffic signals will connect to the fiber backbone, starting west of I-25 in the East Dry Creek Road corridor. In 2021, the whole ITS is expected to be complete.
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