How Knoxville keeps traffic lights in sync


KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Chances are you’ve had one of those days where you’re trying to get to work or the kids to school and you hit every red light along the way.

“I’m getting stopped by red lights all the time. You know it just ends up being a nuisance,” said Joshua Webber.

Keeping traffic flowing through and around Knoxville is a constant 24/7 job.

“We can’t be there all the time and traffic is one of those things that – it doesn’t stay the same one day to the next,” said traffic systems engineer Ernie Pierce.

On average, major streets or arteries get a timing tune-up every three years. The city is wrapping up a timing inspection project along an eight mile stretch of Middlebrook Pike. By conducting the project in house using traffic replicating software, the city will save roughly $100,000.

“A lot of what we do is replicating on-street conditions with those models and make sure they accurately represent what they are seeing and what the traffic is experiencing. Then we ask the model to optimize or make it better, and what that means is reducing delay,” said chief traffic engineer Jeff Branham.

The city is now focusing on Cedar Bluff in West Knoxville between Sherrill Boulevard and Kingston Pike. There are seven traffic lights in just under a mile, but they are major intersections through Kingston Pike, Parkside Drive and Peters Road, not to mention all the traffic coming off Interstate 40. That adds a lot of traffic along this short stretch of Cedar Bluff.

“It’s a combination of development and the fact that we haven’t visited it in a while, so we felt that was a good one to focus on,” said Branham.

“Cedar Bluff is a high congested area, and with all the new construction and stuff going on, and with people wanting to live in West Knoxville, the traffic is obviously not going anywhere,” said resident Dell Williams.

“It’s one of those areas that about every year it probably needs to be worked on because it’s growing by leaps and bounds out there,” said Pierce.

City engineers say the timing project along Cedar Bluff should be completed in about two months. That includes the software model, installation and timing, as well as any needed adjustments.

“All these corridors sort of live to be tweaked on because traffic is so dynamic in Knoxville right now with construction, the newer developments and some of the things that TDOT is doing. We are constantly having to stay on top of that,” said Branham.

If you see a traffic light that is out of sync or malfunctioning, you have two options. You can call 311 Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., or if it’s after hours or over the weekend, you should call 911.

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