New traffic control system installed at Hamilton’s priority intersections

Twenty-seven in place now with 70 non-priority intersections getting them this summer.

Nearly 30 intersections now have adaptive traffic signals up and running which will allow the new Centracs system to adjust to backups and congestion.

Centracs is the $6 million centralized traffic computer system the city’s been installing over the past year, and the “priority” intersections ― the 27 intersections mostly along the High-Main street corridor between Hampshire Avenue at Ohio 129 and Eaton Avenue ― are now collecting traffic data. Intersections on MLK Jr. Boulevard at Maple Avenue and Black Street are also part of the system’s priority intersections.

Hamilton Director of Engineering Rich Engle said the adaptive traffic system will be able to recognize traffic issues, such as backups and heavy congestion, and adjust the timing of the signals.

“We will set it to the optimum place we think it needs to be,” said Engle about the high and low parameters related to traffic. “If there was some event downtown where there was an excess amount of traffic, say going east on High Street, the system will adapt to the high setting to allow that traffic to flow and progress through the city.”

Most of the cost is from a $4.6 million Ohio Department of Transportation grant via the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments. Hamilton’s share is $1.4 million.

The priority intersections, which will see some of the heaviest traffic through the city, have eight cameras, four looking at the legs of the intersection and four looking upstream at the approaching traffic. Engle said his staff is looking at adding a few more priority intersections to downtown side streets intersections.

The other 70 lighted intersections around the city aren’t classified as “priority” as they will only have four cameras looking at each leg of the intersection, Engle said.

The price tag covers the installation of the system, a consultant, and a five-year maintenance agreement. Over the lifetime of the maintenance agreement, Engle said the city would be able to understand the annual maintenance costs, which he expects can be costly. Just at the priority intersections, there are 216 cameras. The other 70 intersections will have nearly around 280.

The Centracs system is replacing the city’s old system, which operates somewhat independently, though they are synced in some areas. But Engle said many signals are independent, and city officials wouldn’t know when a malfunction occurs unless a police officer or concerned citizen contacts the city.

This new system will have all its information transmitted through a fiber network to a central location at the city garage, and city staff will be able to monitor every traffic signal ― priority and non-priority signals ― in Hamilton.

“With this system, we’ll be able to see it all on a computer screen, and it will even send text messages, alerting staff there’s a problem there,” Engle said.

City Manager Joshua Smith said the installation of the Centracs system would help Hamilton “get ahead of the Spooky Nook traffic” as it becomes fully operational in 2023.

ExploreHamilton already seeing economic impact of Spooky Nook Sports at Champion Mill

Spooky Nook owner Sam Beiler told City Council last week the $165 million, 1.2 million-square-foot mega sports and events complex will begin seeing tens of thousands of people ascend North B Street by early March. A small one-day field hockey event on Jan. 7 saw businesses with significant activity, according to multiple small business owners.

By the summer, the other 70 intersections around the city will have the Centracs system installed.

The city’s old traffic light system also did not have the capacity for a pre-emption system for public safety vehicles, where an ambulance, fire engine, or police car heading toward an emergency scene would be recognized by the system and given green lights.

However, one issue is that pedestrians walking downtown must press the crosswalk button to activate the signal.

“Before, we had pedestrian crossings linked with the traffic signals, but that’s no longer the case,” Engle said. “The crossing signal will remain red unless someone pushes the button.”

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