Downtown traffic signals get upgrade

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 29, 2001

Portions of downtown Natchez are about to shed a bit of skyline clutter.

Work is under way on a $700,000 project that will replace and modernize traffic signals along most of Canal and Franklin streets.

And the best part? It won’t cost the City of Natchez a penny.

The money for the project comes from the Surface Transportation Program of the Federal Highway Administration.

&uot;The way they look at it, it’s traffic congestion,&uot; said City Engineer David Gardner, who is spearheading the project. &uot;If they can keep cars from sitting idle in congestion burning fuel it saves. When you look at it nationwide, it’s saving millions.&uot;

Although gridlock in Natchez doesn’t happen often, Gardner said the work will have a two-fold benefit. The project will eliminate many exposed wires by putting them underground, and it will improve the traffic management with the addition of computerized monitoring.

&uot;It’s an improvement because it takes down the overhead wires,&uot; Gardner said. &uot;The wires are just unsightly.&uot;

The project will replace traffic signals on Canal Street from D.A. Biglane Street north to Jefferson Street and on Franklin Street from Canal Street east to Union Street.

The Canal Street intersections will have poles and mast arms similar to those at the intersection of D.A. Biglane and Canal streets.

The Franklin Street intersections will be replaced with the old-style decorative poles, which are already utilized on Main Street.

Gardner said in addition to removing the exposed wires the new traffic signals will include a video detection system.

&uot;It’s like a video camera that can sense movement,&uot; Gardner said. &uot;It picks up the vehicles so we know what the movement is and how much we have in a given direction.&uot;

That’s important, Gardner said, because it allows the timing of traffic signals to be modified at the touch of a computer button.

&uot;Right now, the signals are on fixed time, and they’re inefficient,&uot; he said.

A similar system has been installed on U.S. 61 North near ACCS and on Seargent S. Prentiss Drive near Natchez High School.

&uot;Before we had this system we had to have a traffic cop out there every morning,&uot; Gardner said. &uot;Now we make the timing longer in one direction every weekday morning. And we can turn it off during the summer.

&uot;It’s going to work real well with the convention center,&uot; Gardner said. &uot;If I’ve got a big convention coming, we can just change the timing around to help with the traffic flow.&uot;

Workers have begun putting in the foundations for the poles, he said.

The project should be complete by early next year, Gardner said.

He said the city can apply for this money again next year and will use additional money from the Surface Transportation Program on an upcoming project on Minor Street. The project will widen the street, add curbs and gutters and resurface the roadway.