In November, a traffic signal on a second lane for left turns from Veterans Memorial Parkway, also known as the U.S. 301 Bypass, onto Brannen Street was installed. The previously barred lane was repainted and opened to traffic.
It allows more drivers to make the turn in one of Statesboro’s busiest areas, where Brannen provides direct access to Statesboro Crossing, site of T.J.Maxx and Books-A-Million, and goes on to Wal-Mart and the Statesboro Mall. The Georgia Department of Transportation, which ordered the work, reported it was completed in January.
It followed a Georgia DOT assessment of traffic numbers, but that came after a request from the city of Statesboro. This illustrates how the city’s public works and engineering department and the state’s transportation department both respond to concerns about traffic lights and intersections, with some overlap.
“If there is an issue that the city is aware of, we will make the request to GDOT, who in turn will study the location and request and make a final determination,” City Engineer Brad Deal said in an email. “In this case, traffic in the left-turn lane was backing up to the end of the lane and spilling over into the through lanes at certain times.”
An earlier example was when a second left-turn lane was added on the westbound approach to U.S. Highway 301 from the bypass about four years ago, he said.
“Sometimes GDOT is already looking at the issue, while in some cases the City is bringing it to their attention,” Deal said.
Lester Road signal
Much more recently, the Statesboro Herald asked Deal in a March 16 email if he was aware of a problem with the timing of the signals on Northside Drive East at Lester Road, where traffic turns toward Statesboro High School.
Deal noted that this part of Northside Drive, which is part of U.S. Highway 80, was resurfaced a few months ago and said the loops in the pavement that detect the presence of vehicles should have been restored by now. But he said would take a look at the intersection the next time he went out.
“Even if it is a GDOT intersection, most people usually call my office, and I relay the information to GDOT,” Deal wrote. “Sometimes either the wire in the pavement or the hardware in the signal cabinet gets damaged or malfunctions, and it will cause those type issues.”
The Herald also contacted Jill Nagel, Georgia DOT communications officer for Southeast Georgia, about traffic signal controls in general and some specific concerns heard from motorists.
There was a problem at the Northside Drive-Lester Road signal, and a DOT crew has now fixed it, she reported Friday.
“It was at the pole, not in the asphalt. … It was reported to our sign shop, and a crew came out this week and repaired it,” Nagel said.
Apparently, there are 57 traffic signals in Bulloch County, none maintained by the county government. The city of Statesboro has sole responsibility for 14 of them, which are at intersections of city streets that are not also state routes, Deal said. These are mainly on Chandler Road, Brannen Street, Zetterower Avenue, Lanier Drive and College Street.
“I don't know of any major issues with any city traffic signals, although we are in the process of reviewing and updating our signal timing along Chandler Road,” he said.
The Georgia DOT maintains 43 traffic signals in Bulloch County, Nagel said. These are on state routes, and U.S. highways such as 301 and 80 are also state routes. The city does some maintenance, such as replacing bulbs, on DOT signals in the city limits.
When streets are resurfaced, the top layer of asphalt is milled down first, which destroys the detector loops buried in the pavement. The buried wires are the most common method for detecting the presence of vehicles, so that, for example, a turn light will not come on unless a vehicle is present in the turn lane.
Both Deal and Nagel talked about this as a potential cause of changes drivers have observed the past several months on portions of U.S. Highway 80, including Northside Drive, and on Georgia Highway 24, including East Main Street.
“You will see some delays, and turn signals coming on when they shouldn't, as a result, until the contractor reinstalls the detectors,” Deal emailed. “Right now that is happening on Highway 80 West from North Main to Hopulikeit. The traffic signals along that route are not functioning optimally right now and will be that way until the contractor replaces all of the detectors, which will probably take a month or so.”
U.S. Highway 80 East was previously resurfaced from Savannah Avenue toward Brooklet, and Georgia Highway 24 was resurfaced from Northside Drive to beyond Mill Creek Park.
“It took them a few weeks to get all the detectors replaced,” Deal said.
Two of Statesboro’s city-maintained intersections, where West Main meets College Street and where Savannah and Zetterower Avenues meet, use cameras instead of buried cables to detect vehicles.
Although more expensive to purchase, the cameras avoid maintenance problems that seepage and surface damage cause with the buried wires, and are being considered for wider use in the future, Deal said.
To report problems
A large, silver-colored box, which can be seen on one quadrant of a DOT-maintained intersection, usually carries a sign suggesting that drivers phone 511 to report signal malfunctions, Nagel noted. That number accesses the department’s statewide travel information system.
“That goes to our traffic operations in Atlanta, and they will send it to our district folks, and our traffic signal guys are on call 24-seven,” Nagel said. “We want to make sure that all our signals are working at their full capacity to keep traffic flowing as efficiently as possible.”
For concerns about the timing of city signals, Statesboro City Hall’s main number is (912) 764-5468. Problems posing an immediate danger should be reported to law enforcement through 911.
Smart signals ahead
Statesboro does not have a control center where traffic signal timing is remotely monitored and adjusted, the way some big cities do. The city engineering office has two software programs, Synchro and HCS, to calculate the timing, but it has to be adjusted at the intersection.
“Some traffic signals are coordinated with each other, while others are not,” Deal said. “That just depends on the location, how close it is to other signals, and how busy the intersection is.”
The Georgia Department of Transportation is installing new “smart” signal technology at its intersections, with plans to have it at all state-maintained intersections in the 26-county Southeast District by the end of the year, Nagel reported.
“The software allows us to understand the performance of each signal by monitoring data that comes in every tenth of a second. Our engineers are able to make real-time adjustments to the signals to optimize performance based on actual roadway conditions,” State Traffic Engineer Andrew Heath stated in a 2016 news release.
Data can be monitored wirelessly, but crews will still have to go to the scene for hardware problems and major changes, Nagel said.
The state release also said that the department is providing the system to local agencies at no cost to them.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.