Federal government offers to help assess Columbia's traffic signal management system

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 | 5:57 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — An idea to better manage traffic signals in Columbia has attracted attention from the federal government.

Early in September, the Environment and Energy Commission sent a letter to the City Council asking the Columbia Public Works staff to assess how well the city's traffic signals are managed. The letter cited articles showing how improved management could reduce gasoline consumption, auto emissions and commuting times.

Since then, the Federal Highway Administration has offered Columbia's traffic department help in studying traffic signal management in the city. The administration's Resource Center noticed an article the Missourian published regarding the request and e-mailed Brian Chandler, a traffic engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation. Chandler forwarded the offer to Scott Bitterman, the supervising engineer for Columbia's traffic department.

The administration has participated in several state, local and regional studies that have been instrumental in improving traffic signal operations and would be interested in participating in any study conducted, according to the e-mail.

The Arterial Management Program of the Federal Highway Administration regularly works to improve traffic signal operations across the nation with a mix of outreach, guidance, training and research to help agencies maintain effective management, operations, maintenance and signal timing practices, according to its Web site,

The offer coincided with a request from the Public Works Director John Glastock, who asked Bitterman to write a report on what would be involved in conducting this self-assessment and what the potential benefits are.

Since the request, Bitterman has contacted Department of Transportation District Traffic Engineer Matt Myers, and they are attempting to schedule a conference call with the Federal Highway Administration regarding  its potential involvement in the study.

"At this point, I don't know if this is something that is of no cost to the city," Bitterman said on Tuesday.

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