WASHINGTON INSIGHT

Traffic signal operations earn D-

Megan Zadecky
Communications Manager
APWA Washington Office

APWA joined other transportation organizations to unveil the National Traffic Signal Report Card, which gave traffic signal operations a grade of D-. The Report Card was released on April 20 during a national press conference at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. Representing APWA at the press event was John Okamoto, Chief Administrative Officer with the Port of Seattle.

Included in the Report Card are the results from the traffic signal self-assessment survey conducted by the National Transportation Operations Coalition (NTOC) last fall. Many public works departments responded to the survey that was distributed to localities across the country. There were 378 agencies in 49 states that participated in the survey, representing about one-third of traffic signals in the U.S.

"Just because signals change colors does not mean that they operate efficiently," said Marshall Elizer, APWA Board Liaison for Transportation, and Transportation Services Manager with Gresham, Smith & Partners. "In many instances where traffic signal timing is not coordinated and sensors are not operational, local agencies do not have the adequate funding or staff to routinely review traffic signal operations and make the necessary repairs."

Poor traffic signal operations directly affect traffic congestion, commute time and poor air quality. For as little as $4 per vehicle public agencies could improve their traffic signal grade to a grade of A. Improvements would reduce fuel consumption while lessoning the amount of time people spend idling in traffic.

"With increased demands on and limited resources for our transportation systems, public agencies struggle to maintain efficient transportation systems and reduce congestion," said Tom Trice, APWA President and Deputy City Manager of Royal Oak, Michigan. "Allocating funding to improve traffic signal timing is a good investment and benefits will be realized immediately."

Traffic signals are owned, operated and maintained by state and local governments and are paid for by taxpayers. Studies around the country show that the benefits of investing in signal timing outweigh the costs by 40:1. By investing in updating and maintaining traffic signals, local agencies can make better use of their existing transportation networks.

The NTOC is an alliance of national associations, practitioners and private sector groups involved in transportation operations, planning and public safety. The NTOC Action Team that developed the national transportation signal self-assessment included representatives from APWA, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and ITS America.

The Traffic Signal Report Card is part of an ongoing national initiative to bring more attention to the need for increased investment in traffic signal operations. The score of D- is a wake-up call that more attention and resources are needed to achieve the potential that good signal operations afford.

Copies of the National Traffic Signal Report Card are available at http://www.ite.org/reportcard/.

Megan Zadecky can be reached at (202) 218-6712 or mzadecky@apwa.net.


Government Affairs Committee members advocate for public works in D.C.

Jim Fahey
Director of Government Affairs
APWA Washington Office

Members of APWA's Government Affairs Committee (GAC) met in Washington, D.C. April 18 and 19 for a two-day policy meeting which included discussions of public works issues with lawmakers, senior officials from federal agencies and congressional staff.

The reauthorization of TEA-21, water infrastructure investment, and emergency response and preparedness were top on the committee's agenda. Providing the latest insights on these key issues were representatives from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and staff from the House Subcommittee on Highways, Transit and Pipelines.

Susan Binder, FHWA's Director of the Office of Legislation and Strategic Planning, discussed with GAC members the status and outlook of reauthorization. Barbara Sisson, FTA's Associate Administrator for Research, Demonstration and Innovation, provided an overview of FTA's transit research activities. Stephen Heare, EPA's Director, Drinking Water Protection Division, Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water, talked about water system security, source water protection and other EPA initiatives. Gil Jamieson, who leads DHS's National Incident Management System (NIMS) Integration Center, discussed the center's focus on NIMS implementation through standards and resources, training and exercises, publication management, compliance and evaluation, and technology, research and development.

During the second day of the meeting, committee members met with Graham Hill, Counsel, House Subcommittee on Highways, Transit and Pipelines, who provided the latest insights on House and Senate activity to reauthorize TEA-21. Afterwards, committee members spent the rest of the day on Capitol Hill meeting with their congressional representatives and congressional staff to advocate APWA's priorities for TEA-21 reauthorization, protection from unfunded mandates, water infrastructure investment, and federal emergency relief and infrastructure security. In all, committee members held more than 50 meetings with their congressional offices.

GAC members are: Ben Wolfe, Chair; Robert Murnane, Vice-Chair; Bob Freudenthal, Board Liaison; Robert Albee, Ann Burnett, Neil Dobler, Greg Dore, John German, Ken Hill, Diane Linderman, Bill Murphy, John Okamoto, Richard Ridings, Gary Stockhoff, Mickey Sullivan and Win Westfall.