Traffic signals throughout Hamilton to get upgrades ahead of Spooky Nook opening

About a third of Hamilton’s traffic signals should be converted into “smart” signals, and working by April, around the time Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill opens, with large amounts of traffic entering and leaving the city on weekends.

“Next year, by April, we plan to have 27 of the priority intersections completed,” Nathan Perry, the city’s administrator of energy management & utility business affairs, told City Council on Wednesday.

Those priority roads are High and Main streets and Martin Luther King Boulevard, Perry said.

Hamilton officials have a lot of hope that the $5.2 million smart traffic system can help alleviate traffic snarls, particularly along Hamilton’s primary east-west highway, High and Main streets. They have said it will not be a complete solution. Instead, a northern bypass around the city, called North Hamilton Crossing, will be the ultimate solution, but that is expected to take 10 years or more to complete, because it would include a new bridge across the Great Miami River and also an overpass or underpass traversing the CSX railroad tracks.

ExploreProject Profile: North Hamilton Crossing, City of Hamilton, Ohio

The centralized signal system, when completed, will link all the city’s 97 signals to a central computer. It will allow city staff to watch traffic live, using cameras at intersections and adjust how long signals are either green or red to help ease flow of vehicles that are backed up. The system also will have the ability to recognize traffic issues on its own, and if allowed to do so by city controllers, can make the adjustments without control by humans.

Residents are concerned that when Spooky Nook begins attracting 10,000 or more athletes and their families on weekends for tournaments, traffic will worsen. City Manager Joshua Smith has said he believes that traffic won’t worsen the rush-hour driving experience because most people who arrive for weekend tournaments will arrive after the Friday commute time, with most people leaving by Sunday evenings.

The traffic system is manufactured by Econolite. Its installation will include traffic video detectors, battery backups for each signal, fiber links among the signals and installation of handicapped curb ramps at every intersection that lacks them.

The city has received $2 million from the state toward the North Hamilton Crossing’s feasibility and engineering design, and that will be matched by $2 million from Hamilton, Perry said.

Some $4.2 million of the traffic-signal upgrades is coming through a federal Surface Transportation block grant administered through the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, known as OKI. The other $1.05 million is the city’s responsibility.

ExploreHamilton seeks better east-west traffic flow with Spooky Nook on the horizon

Mason already has such a system, which it uses to make speedy changes when the city learns Mason High School will release its students an hour early, or when a big storm hits Kings Island, unexpectedly sending thousands of people driving home for the day.

Mason’s system cost about $3 million to connect 48 intersections.

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