If you drive around Wilmington, you often find yourself waiting....and waiting....and waiting....at red lights. The city's traffic lights are notoriously long, but that will soon change. The city is upgrading the traffic signal system at more than 200 intersections. Wednesday, crews worked at Independence and Shipyard. "We can't build that many more roads in the city of Wilmington or even in the county of New Hanover. This will give us a very efficient way to move traffic through our community,” said Mayor Bill Saffo. The old and new equipment looks fairly similar. City Traffic Engineer Don Bennett compares it to buying a new computer. "You go buy a PC today and then go buy a PC from 20 years ago and the boxes may look very similar, but the power and the capacity within those boxes is completely changed." Traffic engineers are going from having six different time cycles they can run to 64. They'll have improved video surveillance to keep a closer eye on congestion and change the lights accordingly. It's not uncommon to wait for two or even three cycles of traffic signals at some of Wilmington’s busiest intersections. After these improvements are done, you should be spending less time waiting at red lights. “We’ll have coordination on say both independence and on shipyard, so it will facilitate traffic movement on both arteries as opposed to having to make a choice between this one or that one,” Bennett said. Mayor Saffo says the project is on schedule and under budget. The project costs ten million dollars, with the expense being split between the city of Wilmington and the state DOT. Three million comes from a transportation bond approved by voters in 2006. The earliest drivers will see a difference with traffic signals, is in October.
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