Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker are synchronizing efforts to improve the flow of traffic in Utah's capital city.

Traffic-light synchronization in Salt Lake City was one of the topics tackled by the elected leaders in a closed-door coordination meeting Monday, Becker said.

"Gov. Huntsman, Mayor Corroon and I are really pushing our transportation people to improve the way our traffic signals are synchronized," he said.

The collaboration is rooted in the mixed ownership of streets and a shared desire to reduce traffic congestion during peak hours, resulting in saving motorists money in fuel costs and cutting down on air pollution from idling cars.

"As we grow, we need to look at how we can increase the efficiency of our roadway system," Corroon said.

David Kinnecom, traffic operations engineer with the Utah Department of Transportation, said Salt Lake City presents challenges for traffic light synchronization, particularly in the downtown area.

The city's very wide streets require long pedestrian crossing times, Kinnecom said, which works against signal coordination.

"In most cases downtown, (traffic signal) cycle length is dictated by pedestrian crossing time rather than traffic time," he said. "In an ideal world, we'd like to run shorter cycle lengths."

The city also has few one-way streets, which work well for traffic coordination, Kinnecom said.

"It's obvious how to coordinate signals on one-way streets," he said. "The green signal would move down the street at the speed of traffic."

Coordinating signals on two-way streets is much more difficult, Kinnecom said.

"If you try to make it easy to move in one direction, you're often making it harder in the other direction," he said.

Light rail also poses a challenge because it basically pre-empts traffic signals, Becker said.

"We want to give precedence to (TRAX)," he said, "but we also want to see what we can do so it doesn't cause quite as many delays in our traffic signal system."

As part of the recent interlocal agreement between Salt Lake City and the Utah Transit Authority to construct a TRAX line to the airport, UTA has agreed to explore upgrades to the entire light-rail system to reduce its negative impact on the flow of vehicle traffic.

Becker's proposed budget for fiscal year 2008-09 calls for several traffic signal improvements for Salt Lake City, including a $640,000 capital-improvement project to replace four obsolete traffic signals at 900 East and 1300 South, 2000 East and 2700 South, 300 West and 1700 South, and Main Street and 1300 South.

City officials are working with UDOT to determine what else can be done, Becker said.

UDOT is putting together a brochure to inform the public about how traffic signal synchronization works. It also will use its Web site at www.dot.state .ut.us to request public input on the traffic signal system.


Contributing: Leigh Dethman

E-mail: [email protected]