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Road signal plan aims for better timing

LAWRENCEVILLE - State, local and federal officials are pitching in to help traffic flow smoother through Lawrenceville, Norcross and Duluth.

The Board of Commissioners approved agreements with the Georgia Department of Transportation to use cables to connect traffic signals along Buford Highway, Satellite Boulevard and Duluth Highway.

Although the construction won't be complete for about two years, engineers will eventually be able to control the lights from a central facility in Lawrenceville.

"We're complaining about air pollution, and having long lines of traffic at an intersection is the worst thing in the world for that," said Murray Brown, who lives along the Buford Highway corridor. "It's so frustrating. ... We spend far too much time sitting in traffic for no good reason."

Signal timing has been a top priority for both Gwinnett Chairman Charles Bannister and Gov. Sonny Perdue, so both agencies are donating to the Automated Traffic Management System cause.

County officials have agreed to pitch in $1,112,400 for the three systems and to coordinate the construction, while the federal government will bear about 80 percent of the costs, or $4,489,600.

According to documents, signals would be synchronized from the DeKalb County line to Sugarloaf Parkway on Buford Highway, from Beaver Ruin Road to Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road on Satellite Boulevard, and from Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road to Ga. Highway 124 on Duluth Highway.

Chief signal engineer Chuck Bailey said the Duluth Highway stretch is already under design but the other two still have to be engineered. Construction will begin next summer.

Bailey said smaller stretches of lights are coordinated along all three corridors, but the project would put in more high-tech equipment and hook it to the county's traffic management center.

"The longer the roadway you time, the greater difference to travel times," Gwinnett DOT Director Brian Allen said. "If you can do the entire corridor, it's even better."

Being able to keep traffic moving, instead of constantly stopping at signals, would help cut down on air pollution, driver frustration and maybe even gas consumption, Allen said.

"It's about being able to keep a consistent speed," he said. "Overall it'll help with the efficiency and hopefully it'll cut down on the aggravation."

Duluth Mayor Shirley Lasseter said she wasn't aware of the plans for Buford Highway, which crosses through the city, but said the idea is appealing.

"I don't know what their theories are, but I know the traffic has imploded. We need to do something to turn that around," she said. "I don't think they would do it unless it would be advantageous for traffic. You just have to have faith in the engineers."