New traffic lights in metro use artificial intelligence to manage congestion

MoDOT says will make drive faster, safer

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- A new traffic signal along Missouri Route 291 in Lee's Summit will use artificial intelligence to make your drive more efficient. 

The Missouri Department of Transportation activated the traffic light at 291 and Deerbrook Street Tuesday. A traffic specialist with MoDOT said the amount of traffic and recent crashes at the intersection led to the signal installation.

In 2009, MoDOT installed the In|Sync traffic synchronization system on 12 traffic signals along MO 291, specifically on the 2.5 miles between I-470 and U.S. 50. Since Deerbrook Street is within that stretch, MoDOT needed to install the artificial intelligence system on this new light as well. 

The system uses cameras on traffic signals to analyze real-time data and adjust the timing of lights to best serve the current traffic situation. 

"It's not like a traditional signal where the main line is first, then the turns," explained Alex Martinez, a MoDOT senior traffic studies specialist. "Here, it's going to decide it's easier for me to serve the left turn movement before I let everyone else through."

By syncing all 13 currently-installed traffic signals, engineers believe drivers will save time and money, mainly by avoiding the stop-and-go of hitting multiple red lights during their commute. 

"You're not stopping, you're saving on gas money, reducing emissions to the environment, if you have a green thumb, and then the safety aspect," said Sawyer Breslow of Rhythm Engineering, the Lenexa-based company that installed the In|Sync program. "You're not having to come up and stop at the back of a long line of traffic and risk an accident."

As part of this project, Rhythm upgraded the technology at the 12 traffic signals where it existed on MO 291. The upgrades, when paired with the new light at Deerbrook, cost the state $2.8 million. 

MoDOT explained the traffic lights will also make it easier for pedestrians to cross the street.

Work on the new traffic signal was delayed due to electricians from Kansas City traveling to Texas and Florida to help those states recover from hurricanes.

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