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Topeka’s “Green Light Tunnel” Saves Fuel and Time

April 22, 2011 - 1:50pm

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Topeka, Kansas, has activated the first of three key traffic corridors to receive a "green light tunnel," a real-time adaptive traffic signal system that synchronizes signals to create a series of green lights for motorists. The result is fewer stops, less travel time and -- most importantly -- a lot of saved gasoline.

The first of three key traffic corridors in Topeka, Kansas has received a “green light tunnel,” a real-time adaptive traffic signal system that synchronizes signals to create a series of green lights for motorists. The result is fewer stops, less travel time, and most importantly, a lot of saved gasoline.

Topeka is using roughly half of its $1.2 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to install adaptive traffic signal systems at 22 intersections across the city.

“The City of Topeka’s EECBG allocation allowed us to ramp up our sustainability and energy efficiency efforts in a big way -- by financing projects that would have otherwise been cost-prohibitive in these lean budget times,” said Topeka City Manager Norton Bonaparte. He says the traffic light system has resulted in a reduction in CO2 emissions from lowered gasoline consumption and, consequently, “dollar savings for Topeka citizens and visitors, the timing of which has been perfect because of continually rising gas prices.”

The city chose a system called “InSync” developed by Rhythm Engineering of Lenexa, KS.  By using cameras and processors, and connecting the signals with fiber cable, intersections are able to “talk” to each other to coordinate traffic and reduce delays.

It is estimated that drivers will save 5,000 gallons of gasoline per intersection per year by decreasing the number of stops, for an annual reduction of 110,000 gallons. In addition, because less gasoline is burned, the system will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 97,000 pounds.

The change is expected to do more than save energy and the valuable time of motorists. “We are hopeful that the decrease in stops and the length of delay per intersection will also decrease crashes,” Topeka Traffic Engineer Linda Voss said. Last year there were 143 crashes in the corridor, 91 of them rear-end crashes at intersections showing a red light.

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