City moves forward on viaduct traffic solution

·2 min read

May 26—Bids are being solicited for a project that will coordinate signals when trains block downtown intersections, allowing traffic to flow freely across the viaduct at North Main and Court streets.

An engineering firm began looking at the issue more than a decade ago. Money captured from a sales tax approved by voters for capital improvements will be used to fund the traffic signal installation and synchronization project.

Interim Public Works Director Mike Stewart said in addition to new signals and signs, the project will include pedestrian access improvements. Installation of technology used to identify the prolonged presence of trains at grade-level intersections and signal synchronization gear is expected to be a major piece of the project.

Once a bid is awarded and a notice to proceed is issued, work could be completed in about four months depending on the delivery of materials. B.J. Hawkins, an engineer with Traffic Engineering Consultants, said to expect a four-month wait for the delivery of traffic signal poles.

The project will include improvements at four intersections: North Main and Court streets, North Cherokee and Callahan streets, North Cherokee Street and Broadway, and North Cherokee Street and Okmulgee Avenue. Improvements will include new traffic signals, pedestrian ramps and signals, and the technology required for train-detection, signal synchronization and pre-emption.

The goal is to keep traffic flowing on North Main Street and across the viaduct on Callahan Street when trains block grade-level intersections. Hawkins, during a recent City Council meeting, said that would be achieved by pre-empting ordinary operation of traffic signals at those four intersections, providing intermittent periods of unimpeded travel.

Westbound motorists who are on the viaduct during a period of pre-emption, Hawkins said, would be required to turn right at North Main Street. Eastbound motorists who are on the viaduct while the system detects a train blocking grade-level intersections would be required to turn right at North Cherokee Street.

"Every minute or so, it will go back to normal operation to let everything flush out," Hawkins said. "Then it will go back to railroad pre-emption mode to allow traffic to continue flowing across the viaduct."

City Manager Mike Miller acknowledged this solution is not perfect. He said there may be some who believe it is an inconvenience.

"Some people may have to go a couple blocks out of their way, but traffic will be moving," Miller said. "There's not a perfect solution when a train is stopped in the middle of your town, but this is the best one we have been able to come up with."

Stewart said the project was delayed by efforts to leverage the CIP funds to secure a highly competitive federal transportation grant. He said when the city's TIGER grant application was denied, it became a standalone project once again.

Bids are scheduled to be opened on June 8.

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