Traffic-Signal Timing on Hwy. 12 Designed to Optimize Safety, Efficiency

MDOT system based on study of traffic patterns during peak usage hours

Ever sit at a traffic signal on Highway 12 and wonder why it takes so long to turn green? The answer lies in hours of research and modeling aimed at keeping drivers safe and traffic flowing, particularly during peak usage hours.

As one of Starkville’s busiest corridors, the thoroughfare features more than a dozen traffic signals whose timings are based on a system developed by the Mississippi Department of Transportation to analyze and control traffic. Because timings focus on effectively managing large traffic volumes, drivers may experience longer wait times during off-peak hours.

“We’re listening to feedback from residents as we continue working with MDOT to improve the timing of traffic signals along Highway 12,” said Terry Kemp, general manager of Starkville Utilities. “It’s an ongoing process to gain a better understanding of traffic patterns and ensure that signals are programmed with driver safety and optimum traffic flow in mind.”

Kemp pointed out that traffic volume on Highway 12 has steadily increased over the past 10 years, which has required MDOT to upgrade signal technology along the state highway to control larger numbers of vehicles.

MDOT coordinates Highway 12 signal timings based on data from 15 traffic signals between New Light Road and Russell Street, with optimal timings calculated for morning, evening, and midday peak hours.

When coordinated timings are in operation, the focus is on moving large groups of vehicles through the corridor and not on the independent operation of specific signals.

“Instead of signals operating as stand-alone devices, they now work within zones,” Kemp explained. “The overall effect is that a driver may wait a few seconds longer at one location but will have a more uniform and safer experience through the corridor. It’s a system that can be refined over time as MDOT gathers more data about traffic patterns.”

Effective signal timings are better accomplished when traffic is consistent and predictable, such as during morning and evening weekday commutes, rather than during off-peak hours when vehicle traffic is more random.

MDOT has operational jurisdiction over local traffic signals, which are maintained by Starkville Utilities to ensure 24/7 operations. The city maintains a priority list of Starkville’s traffic signals to see that funds are appropriately allocated for repairs, upgrades and replacements, when necessary.

“Our goal is to improve traffic flow throughout the city, and we’ll continue working with MDOT to develop better solutions for the Highway 12 corridor,” said Kemp. “Meanwhile, we encourage residents to report any problems they observe to Starkville Utilities, and we’ll see that they are promptly addressed.”

Starkville Utilities is a municipally owned and operated electric and water utility, serving more than 14,000 residences, businesses and industries in Starkville as well as the state’s largest institution of higher learning, Mississippi State University.

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