Video Transcript

Department of Transportation (DOT) Wireless Traffic Signals

After 19 years, Winston-Salem's downtown traffic system is upgrading to wireless. When you have home computers and things like that, 19 years is a long time to go without changing your equipment, explains Connie James. She is Deputy Director of Transportation for the City of Winston Salem.

In 2013, crews began installing the new wireless system across the city. They've changed out more than 240 signal cabinets, the metal boxes that switch the lights. Crews have set up almost 200 intersections to communicate online, along with installing new, white diamond shaped antennas and radios on signal poles.

We're better able to coordinate the traffic signals which means less delay for motorists at intersections, says James. That's good for them because it saves money on fuel costs and the other thing is it benefits our environment because there are fewer emissions and there's better air quality.

Workers are also laying fiber optic cable to better network signals citywide and with the primary hub on the second floor of the Winston-Salem Transit Authority.

This is the heart of the Winston-Salem's traffic system, the Traffic Management Center. It's from here operators send out digital commands that control the timing of the city's traffic lights.

Everything has now been overhauled with updated software and hardware, including servers and these monitors. They display images coming in from newly installed cameras monitoring the city's traffic flow. An improvement operators say increases their efficiency.

With the traffic surveillance cameras we're able to see real-time changes how it affects the traffic, says Traffic Signal Supervisor Larry Walker. If the change is not good it gives us a chance to change it that instant. A total of 30 cameras will also connect to the state's surveillance system monitoring city traffic and parts of I-40, Business 40 and U.S.-52. That way when we see an accident on the highway system, explains Walker, we can view how this is affecting traffic in our city limits and we can make detour adjustments to help traffic through our city as the incident occurs on the highway. Detour adjustments translate into more green lights being activated so city streets can better handle increased traffic.

Also according to Walker when there's bad weather, the camera network will enable his team to help street maintenance crews during a snow event. We'll actually be able to see how the snow is affecting parts of our city and be able to direct crews for snow removal to those areas, says Walker.

The city of Winston-Salem has invested $1.5 dollars in this two-phase project. These upgrades are also preparing the city for a much bigger project…the Business 40 reconstruction. Connie James says there will be a lot more traffic diverted onto our streets during this time because Business 40/US 421 carries and estimated 70,000 vehicles per day. The new system will have more interoperability with the existing traffic signal system and the network. So we'll be able to change timing to adjust to changes in travel flow, says James.

These improvements are part of a City/State joint venture with a price tag of about $20 million dollars, 80% is covered by federal funds. At the end of this project, there will be nearly 400 traffic signal connections, 150 miles of fiber optic laid and a total of 30 new surveillance cameras. James anticipates the traffic signal system upgrade will be completed by September 2016. Kathryn Mobley, Winston-Salem Television (WSTV) Digital Media.