Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Traffic-Light Study Signals Progress | Driving Conditions Can Affect Region's Quality of Life | Driving Conditions Can Affect Region's Quality of Life

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Traffic-Light Study Signals Progress | Driving Conditions Can Affect Region's Quality of Life | Driving Conditions Can Affect Region's Quality of Life

Article excerpt

OUR VIEW

Timing isn't everything when it comes to promoting the smoother flow of vehicular traffic.

But the timing of traffic lights is a significant factor in the movement -- or the lack thereof -- of cars and trucks.

To that end, it's encouraging to learn that the Sarasota County Commission this week approved an analysis of "signal timing" at 131 intersections throughout the county -- north, south, east and west. On Monday the Sarasota City Commission will consider endorsing a similar project for intersections within municipal boundaries.

The countywide analysis will cost $1.4 million; the evaluation in the city, $400,000. Funding will come from the Florida Department of Transportation, funneled through the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is comprised of elected officials from both counties. As a result, the FDOT must approve the projects in advance and any changes proposed for state roads.

David L. Hutchinson, executive director of the MPO, told us that the study will delve more deeply and broadly into traffic patterns and intersection data than the typical "signal timing update."

What's more, the evaluation will not be limited to intersections on state roads -- a key factor in light of the key roles that local and federal roads play in the transportation network. In addition, since Manatee and Sarasota counties share several of the most vital north-south routes, as well as east-west University Parkway, the potential benefits stand to be regional.

Given the increasing concerns about congestion -- especially during the past two tourist seasons -- we suspect drivers will find the money well spent if it produces even limited positive results. More than convenience is at stake: Driving conditions affect the quality of life in a region and, if they are horrendous, can negatively impact economic development and tourism.

Hutchinson cautioned that the projects will not eliminate congestion and waiting times at intersections, but said the study and subsequent adjustments in signal timing have the potential to produce improvements. …

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