State installing metered traffic lights on I-95 entry ramps
By Tom Harlan
The Florida Department of Transportation is installing metered traffic lights on Interstate 95 ramps to manage traffic during rush hour.
The ramp metering system will be in operation from Ives Dairy Road to Northwest 62nd Street late next year, officials said. The system, in which traffic lights channel merging traffic, is being implemented to improve traffic flow and reduce crashes during rush hour, department officials said.
The system will incorporate meters to control merging traffic from the ramps to the highway. Sensors along the highway will measure gaps between vehicles and transmit the information to a center, where the traffic lights would be controlled.
Ramp metering helps commuters merge onto freeways during peak travel times, said Jesus Martinez, an administrator for the department. While drivers might be annoyed and have to stop on a ramp, the system is one of the most effective means of alleviating bottlenecks, he said.
During peak traffic hours, ramp metering can increase traffic from 1,400 automobiles per lane per hour to up to 2,200, according to US Department of Transportation statistics. In addition, meters can cut crashes up to 50% during the peak of rush hour, the federal department says.
About 220,000 vehicles enter the 11-mile section of I-95 daily, according to department records.
The system could save commuters up to six minutes on a commute between the northern Miami-Dade county line and downtown Miami, Mr. Martinez said.
Miami is the seventh-worst are in the nation for traffic congestion, according to the Texas Transportation Institute's 2003 Urban Mobility Report.
The state transit department has few options to expand traffic arteries as Miami continues to grow over the next decade, Mr. Martinez said. Transportation projects such as ramp metering are needed to reduce travel times on I-95, State Road 826 and other major arteries, he said.
Also, the department's intelligent transportation system is to incorporate overhead signs, cameras and other devices to manage traffic, Mr. Martinez said. The devices are to be used to help manage traffic accidents and the consumer information network, an Internet service that would include Miami-Dade transit information and highway reports.
"Ramp metering is one of the many tools we are employing to manage traffic more effectively," Mr. Martinez said. "We can't just rely on building our way out of traffic."
Transit department officials studied metering systems in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Seattle, Mr. Martinez said. A department contractor began the project in 2002.
The contractor is to finish installation in six to eight months and conduct tests for several months, Mr. Martinez said. Then the department will train workers on how to monitor the technology during peak traffic hours in the morning and afternoon.
"We have quite a lot of work to do," Mr. Martinez said. "We're not looking to deploy ramp metering until the end of next year."