Op-Ed: Our Impressive Irvine Traffic Research And Control Center
Irvine Watchdog volunteers recently had a tour of the Irvine Traffic Research and Control Center, affectionately referred to as ITRAC. The Center is located in an amazingly small office space that reminds me of an airport Air Traffic Control Center with real time videos (not recorded) of numerous Irvine intersections and moving graphs that report signal timing and synchronization. Traffic engineers have a control station that they use to change signalization timing as needed.
I spoke with Acting Director of Transportation, Jamie Bourgeois and two of her engineers and was utterly amazed at all that the Center, with its small staff of 6 traffic engineers, does in order to support Irvine drivers.
The Center operates Monday through Friday from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm. Staff members work over time, after hours, and on weekends, guiding traffic for special events, emergencies, and construction projects.
Traffic engineers monitor and control 375 signaled intersections, 255 of which have real time cameras. CalTrans operates and controls 40 signalized intersections within Irvine. Thanks to a recent Co-Op Agreement, an exclusive agreement between our city and CalTrans, we are working cooperatively to help time our signals optimally. Center staff also manages to take calls from people who report traffic signal problems, which they then research and address. Not only do staff members control traffic from their office, they also drive Irvine streets at all hours of the day to confirm any timing measures implemented and/or needed.
Traffic Light Synchronization
I have often complained about the need for traffic signal synchronization, but I never realized just how complex and expensive the process is. The synchronization process involves synchronizing each signal from the beginning to the end of the street and costs between $8-$10k thousand dollars per signalized intersection. The current regional project to synchronize the 39 Caltrans, Irvine, and Newport Beach traffic signals along Culver Drive alone, will cost approximately $395,000. To find out more about Irvine’s signal synchronization please refer to Irvine’s website.
Mark Ha, Irvine’s Supervising Transportation Analyst, stated that ITRAC is also concerned about pedestrian traffic at signalized intersections. He reports that current law requires pedestrians to press the “WALK button” before crossing signalized intersections.
I now have come to appreciate the dedication of our ITRAC team members and all that they do to support Irvine drivers. Each and every staff member deserves special recognition. Next time I am sitting through multiple signal cycles, instead of complaining, I will roll down my window and give a friendly appreciative wave to the little white cameras above the signal lights.