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City working to reduce congestion on West Stone Drive

Matthew Lane • Jul 29, 2018 at 8:30 AM

KINGSPORT — If you travel down Stone Drive toward Hawkins County in the evenings during the week, then you know how bad the traffic can get. It backs up past Interstate 26 and is congested for miles through the Allandale community.

One motorist recently reached out to the Times News to complain about the congestion and asked why Kingsport couldn’t do anything about it.

Turns out, the city is.

HELPING THE SITUATION

The stretch of Stone Drive from Lynn Garden Drive to Lawson Drive is the last major highway segment in town that is not connected to the citywide integrated traffic management system.

Currently, those traffic signals are on copper wire. You pull up to the intersection, and there’s a loop in the pavement that sends a signal to the nearby traffic light. This system is repeated at each of the intersections.

What that means is the traffic signals aren’t talking to each other. One signal might turn red even though a nearby light is turning green. That’s what’s causing traffic to back up during peak times of the day.

“That area is on copper wire, which dates back to the initial installation,” said City Manager Jeff Fleming. “Since they’re not communicating with each other, there will be times when those signals operate independently, which means they’ll be out of sync with the surrounding signals and you may get stopped at each one.”

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Within the next few months, Kingsport plans to replace the copper wire with fiber optics. This will allow the signals to communicate to a hub that can be remotely viewed and controlled by the city’s traffic division.

Fleming said an integrated system allows the signals to talk to each other. There are algorithms that optimize signal lengths and make adjustments. Such a system basically minimizes delays during these peak periods.

“There’s never a perfect solution for all traffic management, but this is the most sophisticated way that we can make everyone’s experience much more efficient,” Fleming said. “Building or widening roads is the most expensive solution, so we strive to use technology to use the existing highways more efficiently.”

Kingsport will use existing employees and equipment to make the upgrades. Motorists might notice a city vehicle parked near one of the intersections in the coming weeks performing the work.

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