UDOT explains traffic light changes to help holiday traffic downtown

Posted at 11:37 AM, Dec 11, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-11 23:49:18-05

SALT LAKE CITY - Holiday lights, basketball, concerts and more--this weekend downtown Salt Lake City will be packed with events and excitement, and that means traffic jams.

To help reduce the congestion, the Utah Department of Transportation has been tweaking its traffic lights to keep cars moving.

"Lots of people walking around, people going into all the shops around here, so I imagine it'll be pretty busy," Mike Nelson said.

That's why the UDOT is re-timing many of the downtown lights to improve traffic flow and efficiency.

Lisa Miller is UDOT's Traveler Information Manager, and she explained the changes.

"We have real-time data that's coming back to our [Traffic Operations Center] from something new that we have called signal performance measures, but we also have a lot of historical data that helps us to plan and understand what's going to be happening," Miller said.

Those signal performance metrics were implemented in 2013. The new technology gives UDOT a real-time look at any intersection.

"We now have arrival on red, arrival on green, we have a lot of volume and speed data that helps us to calculate what's happening at a traffic signal at any given time of day," Miller said.

Brian Arnold told FOX 13 News he thinks the re-timing is a good idea.

He said: "If they didn't monitor it then it would be silly, but if they're monitoring it then they're saying, 'Is this going to work or not?' and they can do it better next year."

Arnold has already planned ahead to avoid traffic all together while downtown with his family over the weekend.

"We're staying at City Creek, at the hotel, so that we can avoid all of it and walk everywhere for all the fun this weekend," he said.

Here's a tip from UDOT: If drivers go the speed limit on one of the major corridors they are more likely to hit the green lights.

Miller said UDOT is constantly re-timing lights on many of the major thoroughfares, and estimates a total savings of $12 million each year in time and gas saved when they re-time the signals during special events.