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Riverside Public Works Department Unveils High Tech Traffic Management Center

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By Billie Jordan

Riverside Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge cuts the ribbon launching phase one of the Riverside Traffic Management Center at City Hall.
Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge cuts the blue ribbon launching phase one of Riverside's Traffic Management Center at City Hall last Tuesday. The center will allow traffic managers to monitor traffic congestion in real time at major intersections and instantly change signal lights to ease heavy traffic.

"The old symbol of management traffic was the traffic cop, that was the way we thought we'd move people around streets," said Loveridge. "We have now moved beyond the idea of having some person out in the middle of the streets trying to move traffic around.

"I'm proud as mayor to say congratulations Riverside, we have a traffic management center. We have now moved from the minor leagues to the major leagues of managing our streets."

The TMC project cost the city about $600,000 of revenue acquired from the Red Light Enforcement program. Once TMC reaches full capacity, operation is expected to toll $75,000 annually.

In the current phase of operation TMC communicates with 170 of the 360 traffic signals that span the 80 miles composing Riverside. "You'll be able to hit all the green lights like six at time now. Traffic will flow much smoother," said Public Information Officer, Austin Carter.

According to traffic engineer, Jim Ross, TMC will benefit emergency operations, such as earthquakes and accidents. "It allows us to instantly create arteries that can move people around the city in different ways," Ross said.

TMC will allow the public works department to monitor traffic on a daily basis and it will have the ability to use the center in special events. "For example, when we have the festival of lights downtown in December, we'll be able to keep traffic moving smoothly," said Public Works Director, Siobhan Foster.

TMC's grand opening preview tour included a view of the physical center, five viewing screens and the video wall, signal timing capabilities, close circuit cameras at three intersections; video feeds from the city's Red Light Photo Enforcement cameras, real time traffic status maps and traffic news cameras.

"We can move the five cameras as we need to look at the different intersection directions. We can zoom up to a half a mile in any one direction," said City Traffic Engineer, Steve Libring. "We have our traffic signal coordination patterns that are set for average conditions during the day, but when we get extreme or unusual conditions, we have the ability to make adjustments."

When the Southern California Association of Governments considered eight major California concerns it gave mobility an "F" on its report card. "If you think about Southern California, the problem that bedevils us, both for the economy and for the quality of life is traffic," said Loveridge. "All of us experience what its like on the streets... We think [TMC] will make our streets move better."

The concept was conceived when officials at the city's Transportation Accountability Performance summit meetings began asking how can traffic work better in Riverside. Jim Ross, who is a former Walt Disney Engineer, designed and will run TMC operations.

Phase two will include the installation of 30 cameras at intersections throughout the city and began immediately after the grand opening Tuesday.

TMC will operate at full capacity by the end of the next fiscal year. Once TMC reaches 100%, operators can monitor what's happening on the freeway and adjust traffic signals to accommodate the overflow of traffic.

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