Digital screens will divert drivers

In the event of a commute-clogging accident on the Peninsula on U.S. Highway 101, drivers detouring on El Camino Real will be given real-time directions via digital screens under a planned $25 million project scheduled to be completed by early 2012.

Part of a Smart Corridors plan being coordinated by a regional planning group, the City/County Association of Governments, the project would eventually place the digital screens along the 14-mile portion of the thoroughfare, which crosses seven Peninsula cities.

The signs could be quickly and easily changed in order to direct drivers around an accident or lane closure, project manager Parviz Mokhtari said.

“It will improve the efficiency of the entire system,” he said. “We’re not adding lanes, but by properly timing the signals, and all of them working together will increase the efficiency.”

The screens are one of several elements to the $25 million project planned for El Camino Real.

Additionally, there will be cameras at each intersection and the whole system will be connected to a central control facility in Oakland.

“Rather than sending someone out to manually watch traffic and change arrow directions, it can be done from a screen by monitoring traffic and cameras,” Mokhtari said.

There will also be a major upgrade to all the lights on El Camino Real — from San Bruno Avenue in San Bruno to Whipple Avenue in Redwood City — to better time the signals. The California Department of Transportation is overseeing this part of the Smart Corridors project, Mokhtari said.

Caltrans spokeswoman Gidget Navarro said by upgrading the signaling, timing of lights will be better and traffic will flow more easily.

At a meeting today, officials with the association of governments will discuss awarding contracts to design the digital signs. The project is being split into north and south portions, Mokhtari said. The northern project will span from San Bruno Avenue to Third Street in San Mateo; the southern project will reach from Fifth Avenue in San Mateo to Whipple Avenue.

According to association documents, the computerized signs and synchronized light system also can be used to manage traffic on a daily basis.

Officials hope to complete designs of the signs and determine locations by the end of 2010. Construction and installation is expected to happen in 2011. Following three months of testing, Mokhtari said the system should be ready for use in April 2012.

A pilot area for the project will be from El Camino Real and Highway 92 to Hillsdale Boulevard and El Camino.

 

Smart funding

$25 million: Cost of Smart Corridors project

14 miles: Portion of El Camino Real included in project

7: Cities intersected in Smart Corridors route

28 months: Anticipated time before project is completed

Source: City/County Association of Governments

Bay Area NewsEl Camino RealHighway 101Local

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