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New traffic system reduces congestion on Lynchburg road

By Tim Saunders, tsaunders@wdbj7.com
Published On: Jul 08 2013 05:04:47 PM EDT
Updated On: Jul 08 2013 05:50:28 PM EDT
Wards Road Cameras

WDBJ7

There's something for everyone on Wards Road.

Two colleges, dozens of shopping centers, and restaurants for every taste all line the busy corridor.

"Sometimes it gets kind of crazy with all the traffic. A lot of the time it gets pretty stop and go," said Hannah Sturm, a college student who frequently drives on Wards Road.

As Lynchburg has grown in recent years, Wards Road has become more congested.

It's so bad at certain times of the day, drivers go out of their way to take an alternate route.

"I usually go back behind on Wards Ferry Road, just to avoid all the traffic and the lights," Sturm said.

In the past traffic signals have helped create congestion.

Today it's just the opposite.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is using the lights to improve the flow of traffic.

"It's really been able to optimize the entire corridor, with the existing traffic signals that we have out there," said Gerry Harter, area traffic coordinator for VDOT's Lynchburg district.

In March of 2013, VDOT installed cameras at 11 different intersections between English Tavern Road and River Ridge Mall.

The cameras monitor the flow of traffic. A computer measures the number of vehicles and adjusts the signals accordingly.

"It's been very effective on the main line of Wards Road," said Harter, adding that the average travel time on Wards Road has dropped 20 percent.

Traffic is now able to go the speed limit, where before it moved a lot slower.

"One caveat though is that it does, sometimes, increase the delay on side streets," Harter said.

The new traffic system cost about $500,000, but VDOT says other methods for improving traffic flow would have cost a lot more.

"It's considerably better than widening the road, which would be much more expensive than implementing the (camera) system," said Harter.

You may see cameras on intersections in your hometown, but Lynchburg is the only part of our region where the traffic system is being used right now..

Plans are underway to implement it on busy roads in Roanoke later this year.