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City mulls overhaul for Boudreau lights

In an effort to keep the city’s streets moving as best as possible, Boudreau Road will soon become a testing ground to try out a different type of traffic signal technology.
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Traffic lights on Boudreau Rd. at the intersection of Sturgeon Rd. in St. Albert March 7, 2019. DAN RIEDLHUBER/St. Albert Gazette

In an effort to keep the city’s streets moving as smooth as possible, Boudreau Road will soon become a testing ground to try out a different type of traffic signal technology.

The city's intelligent transportation systems (ITS) rolled some smart tech out along St. Albert Trail last year in an effort to improve traffic flow. While St. Albert is collecting data using this current system, plans are underway to try out something different along Boudreau.

The project right now is in the request for proposal (RFP) stage, meaning the city is still looking to see what system would be best to try out. This is expected to take several weeks before the city settles on a new system to try.

Dean Schick, the city’s manager of transportation, said the city wants to evaluate other systems before committing to just one across the board.

“In terms of knowing specifically what will happen on the corridor, we're not quite there yet,” he said. “We're in the stages of drafting the RFP right now. It'll be a few weeks before it gets awarded and the work ultimately begins. But the intent, of course, is that it will expand the ITS capabilities.”

The stretch of road is one of the city’s busiest arterials, with thousands making use of it on a daily basis. Right now, the city's traffic lights along that road work through detection: a camera picks up a vehicle when it approaches a light and puts in a call to turn the lights from red to green.

St. Albert Trail at Hebert Road was one of the first in the city to start using a different method called adaptive signal control as a way to improve traffic flow. The system learned over a period of months what needed to be improved upon and adjusted the timing of the lights on the corridor to better suit drivers’ needs.

Coun. Wes Brodhead said the two corridors he hears the most complaints about in terms of traffic are the trail and Boudreau but he noticed those complaints started to change once the city started installing the new system along St. Albert Trail.

"When they start to move into Boudreau, that can only be a good thing going forward," he added. "I think the more we embrace smart technology to our own real-time traffic management, I think our citizens will see the benefit and see the results in terms of travel time. They will see the value of the investments."

Schick said the city wants to make sure when it does pick a system that it is cost-effective, efficient and effective.

There’s also the issue of making sure any new technology the city brings in is compatible with the existing system. For the most part, Schick explained the vast majority of these kinds of technologies are meant to integrate with each other as a standard practice.

“We want to look at something that's going to be capable of being implemented within our current network without having to go so far as to create this magnitude of work to change over large components of our existing signal infrastructure,” he said. “We want a system that can be applied to the different scenarios of the city. We want to have whatever technology is really going to be applied at the city-wide level.”

He added it is far easier for a city to manage and maintain a single traffic system as opposed to using different ones for different areas of the city.

Jeff Labine

About the Author: Jeff Labine

Jeff Labine joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2018. He writes about city hall and municipal issues. Follow him on Twitter @jefflabine.
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