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Center aims to tame Surprise traffic jams
Lily Leung
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 15, 2008 08:14 AM

By summer's end, Surprise commuters can expect the arrival of a sophisticated tool that should help tame Bell Road traffic congestion, a top priority for the city's traffic engineers.

The City Council approved $1 million in funding last week for a traffic management center slated to be built at the new Surprise Public Safety Facility.

Surprise will be the second city in the West Valley to have such a system. Glendale is the other.

Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, Scottsdale and Tempe also have traffic-management centers, all of which are equipped with large video displays allowing workers to monitor live images of key city intersections.

Surprise is piggybacking off the county's system. But by fall, the city should be up and running with its own Intelligent Transportation System, a program that provides a real-time management of traffic conditions at major intersections via cameras and remote control of traffic signals.

City Engineer Bob Maki said traffic congestion is a "very high-priority issue" in Surprise, a city that has experienced rapid growth in the past five years.

According to city engineers, Bell Road in Surprise is the busiest stretch of surface street in Arizona, with more than 70,000 vehicles passing through daily.

"We see this traffic-control center as an opportunity to use the latest in technology to assist in managing everyday congestion, but also really help us with incident management," Maki said.

Funding for the project comes from the Maricopa Association of Governments, through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program.

The Arizona Department of Transportation is involved in project administration.

The city's traffic engineers already have sketched out the design of the traffic-management center, but cannot reveal it until the project is put out to bid and a qualified bidder is secured, said Brian Moberly, associate traffic engineer for the center.

According to the project's proposal, the first phase of construction will be the installation of a video-wall system and operator workstations.

In the second phase, engineers will install and create a network for the Intelligent Transportation System. This will involve wiring the system to closed-circuit cameras at intersections, dynamic messaging boards on city streets and traffic-signal controllers.

The traffic-management center will be adjacent to the city's emergency-dispatch center, making the departments visible to each other, Maki said.

"If we have an emergency, we will be able to use this facility to help (dispatchers) manage any incidents better," Maki said.

Eventually, the entire city will be connected to the traffic-management center, he said.

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