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$549,029 city project aims to synchronize newer traffic lights
Eastgate area traffic signals to be included in loop
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A $549,029 contract to install new fiber optic cable will help the city connect more traffic signals in Ceres to its system of signal light synchronization.

Pacific Excavation was awarded the contract on Aug. 11.
Smoother traffic flows are the expected result.

Pacific Excavation will install new fiber optic cable and repair sections of the fiber optic network and upgrade the city's Traffic Signal Center. The firm will also add four new closed circuit TV cameras at two new signal locations so city hall can monitor and troubleshoot problems.
"The interconnection of the traffic signals will increase the level of service for the various signalized intersections in the city of Ceres, facilitating smoother traffic flows," said City Manager Toby Wells.

In 2012, the city worked on a traffic signal synchronization project that focused on the Hatch and Mitchell roads corridor and Whitmore Avenue. The work was primarily between Highway 99 and Mitchell Road. The new project extends the work to connect the signals on both Hatch Road and Whitmore Avenue east of Mitchell Road to include signals out to Eastgate Boulevard "so they're synchronized and connect them so we can control those signals from our traffic operation center here at City Hall."

Those two signals at both ends of Eastgate Boulevard are currently disconnected.

Many people have the misconception, said Wells, that traffic synchronization means motorists should be able to hit every light while green.

"It allows us to try to get them better coordinated," said Wells.

During peak travel times of morning commute, lunch time and evening commute, the city tries to get lights on the main thoroughfares to stay green if someone is doing the speed limit.

"You have to remember that when you have long stretches of road with lots of cross traffic, cross traffic triggers those and throws that off whack," said Wells. "It's a very inexact science. We could set it up and have it purely coordinated but you're on a side street, Fowler for example, would have to wait three or four minutes for a cycle."

Wells said true traffic signal coordination works better in short stretches, such as in downtown Modesto.

At times, the system breaks down. At times a motorist can find themselves waiting for a green light but be skipped several cycles because the traffic loops in the road are failing to recognize the vehicle sitting over it. Huge backups can occur and city hall starts hearing complaints. "We can go look at the camera ... and troubleshoot the issue much quicker."

The project is being funded by a federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant.

Construction should start in the middle to late September.