U.S. 31 traffic signal optimization significantly improves travel times and speeds, study finds

U.S. 31 traffic signal optimization significantly improves travel times and speeds, study finds

Photo by Alexander Willis


Spring Hill drivers may find their commute on Main Street to be a bit faster than usual following the completion of the U.S. 31 traffic signal optimization project, which saw the results published online Wednesday afternoon.

Implemented in May of this year, the results of the study found numerous improvements to travel times, speeds and delays along U.S. 31 from Crossings Boulevard near Saturn Parkway to Buckner Road up towards Thompson’s Station.

While drivers will have to wait a little longer before Main Street is widened to five lanes, the specifics of the improvements may come as some relief to Spring Hill’s most trafficked street.

On average, the traffic signal optimization was found to have reduced travel times along Main Street by 17 percent, improve travel speed by 32 percent, and reduce delays by 26 percent.

PHOTO: The stretch of U.S. 31 and 12 intersections included in the signal optimization study. / Photo courtesy of the city of Spring Hill

More specifically, the alterations in traffic signal timing helped improve northbound travel speed during the morning hours by 102 percent, by 42 percent in the evening hours going southbound, and by 11 percent midday bi-directionally.

Delays during peak hours were found to be significantly reduced as well. During the morning hours, northbound delays were reduced by 42 percent, southbound delays in the evening hours by 47 percent, and midday northbound delays by 31 percent.

Travel times were found to have been reduced by 44 percent in the morning hours going north, 30 percent in the evening going south, and 10 percent bi-directionally during the midday.

PHOTO: A chart showing the average amount of vehicles at specific times of day. / Photo courtesy of the city of Spring Hill

The study found, save for one instance, no increase in travel times, delays, or reductions of travel speeds due to the traffic signal optimization. The one instance in which a factor ended up worse was travel times going northbound in the early evening hours, in which the study reads that times had increased by 3 percent following the optimization.

Some of the observations detailed in the study include the intersection of Main Street and Buckner Road to be “operating well over capacity during the AM peak period.”

“Northbound through queue lengths were witnessed to extend past the intersection of U.S. 31 and Williford Court,” reads the report. “Westbound right-turn queue lengths were witnessed to extend about a mile down Buckner Road. Vehicles were observed to lack room to enter the receiving lane even though a green signal was displayed. These queues, however, are not the results of a signal timing issue at the U.S. 31 and Buckner Road intersection, but rather a capacity issue created by the traffic signal to the north at U.S. 31 (Columbia Highway) and Thompson’s Station Road.”

Furthermore, the study found numerous cases of drivers traveling on Main Street well below the posted speed limit of 45 mph, often times under 35 mph. Driving caught in traffic were also observed “texting, working on laptops, and otherwise distracted while waiting for the queue to clear,” which the study concludes such behaviors often increase the delays even further.

Among some of the recommendations provided in the completed study was the implementation of flashing yellow lights at seven of the 12 total intersections included in the study.

“They took 24 hour counts for a long time, and so the consultant believes you finally hit the night hour lull between midnight and 4 a.m,” said Infrastructure Director Chip Moore during Monday’s meeting of the Transportation Advisory Committee. “So anything before that, you still have enough traffic variations that going any sooner than that on flashing… you’re starting to possibly increase risks for collisions at flashing signals.”

The intersections that would see yellow flashing lights implemented are Stephen P. Yokich Parkway, Depot Street, Miles Johnson Parkway, Commonwealth Drive, the southern access to Walmart, Campbell Station Parkway and Wilkes Lane.

Estimated to cost roughly $80,000 when first discussed last November, the traffic signal optimization study was conducted by KCI Technologies Inc.

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