New traffic light system helping reduce jams in Pinellas Co.

Posted at 6:22 PM, Jul 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-18 18:24:16-04

Pinellas County sees a majority of its traffic volume on side, or arterial roads. The county's now expanding a system aimed at helping improve traffic flow and alleviate congestion.

Mike Attard gets in his van to drive Largo's busiest roads, like Ulmerton and East Bay, a lot, and the time spent stuck at all those traffic lights is starting to become a headache.


"You go up and down especially at dinner time, holy cow! I try to get out of here long before then because it's mad and gets blocked up for miles and miles sometimes," said Attard.

He thinks the solution to moving traffic along is in the timing of lights.

"They're like way too long and they need to be shortening them," said Attard.

Pinellas County is working to do just that through a system called "InSync" -- which provides real-time traffic monitoring and helps switch lights from red to green, based on where drivers are going.

"It's a constant battle for us to minimize the delays to all those people," said Ken Jacobs, Pinellas County Transportation Division Director.

The system is so smart, it adjusts lights for construction and accidents.

"It'll see that there's no volume coming in one direction, and so it will start handing that time off to the other directions," said Jacobs.

The system's been a work-in-progress for years, and by 2018, cameras will give views on over 200 major roads throughout the county. There will also be 80 lighted signs with up-to-the-minute travel times, helping drivers choose the best routes. All these improvements are already getting credit for 37 percent fewer stops for traffic and 15 percent less travel time on local roads.

"A minute on your drive might not seem like a lot, but if you multiply that times 60,000 cars that are saving that same minute, it actually does add up to a lot of savings for the public," said Jacobs.

Currently, the cameras are monitored from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. This fall, employees will be watching the system 24/7. Right now, there's a real-time Twitter feed, and a website will be added soon. Local media outlets will also be able to use the cameras for traffic reports.

"We just have too many cars for the roads. So, as much as we can, we try and provide that little bit of extra benefit," Jacobs said.

As Mike Attard gets on the road, he can only hope the changes help cut down his daily commute.

Right now, crews are installing the system upgrades on East Bay, which should be finished by the end of July. Next on tap are 66th Street, Park Blvd., and Bryan Dairy Road.

The county says the upgrades come at a critical time. In addition to growth in local traffic, Pinellas County is expected to top 6 million tourist visitors this year.