Escambia and Santa Rosa looking to implement 'smart roads'

Smart Roads

It's a plan to get you where you need to go faster.

Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties are looking at getting more high tech with their lights and intersections.

The new traffic systems are in place in many parts of Florida, including nearby Bay County.

Anthony Pura hit the streets in Bay County so find out how the "smart roads" have made a difference for their drivers.

Pura took a ride with college student, Nicole Broxson in Panama City. She has places to be and no time to waste. "In the morning, this whole are is backed up," Broxson said.

The busiest intersection in Panama City is near Highway 98 and 23rd Strett.

"I don't really have a problem with traffic expect around the morning time and that's just because everyone's leaving at the same time," she said.

Despite the number of cars, Broxson's never had to wait too long for a green light. And traffic engineers are making sure of it.

A camera feeds back live video to the Bay County traffic center, which is the brain of their roadways for nearly 8 years.

Traffic engineer Marc Mackey said they keep an eye on more than 140 intersections to make sure there's not traffic building up anywhere.

"We're able to troubleshoot an intersection before a citizen calls in to complain," Mackey said.

Mackey said at some intersections they're running a program that lets the computer count cars on its own, automatically adjusting how long a light stays green or red as needed.

All of it is helping cut the average drivers commute time by 20%.

Mackey claims these aren't only smarter that the average intersections, they're safer.

Mackey said, "You are reducing the number of stops, which also reduces the number of rear ends."

Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson told Channel Three that Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties are looking to get something just like that.

"There are these systems all over Florida. We're one of the last places to get it," Robinson said.

Robinson will chair the regional transportation planning organization in July.

He and several of its members have expressed desire but also raised questions about a new traffic system. One of the biggest questions is cost.

Escambia and Santa Rosa want to build a joint system; a center like the one in Bay County to watch over more than 360 intersections. That's more than double what Bay County's system oversees.

The price tag is about 50 million dollars.

Though engineers explains it can be built in phases, dividing up that cost. That state could help with the bill and the project all but depends on that.

Robinson said, "We can either put more asphalt on the ground, or we can manage the asphalt we have better."

Right now, engineers are conducting a study on Escambia and Santa Rosa County roads to figure out the best way to put in the system, and also to prioritize which intersections need the most help.

That study will wrap up in the summer.

There is no funding set for the potential project, so there's no timeline available.

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