City aims for smoother traffic flow

Clinton retiming signals along Seivers Boulevard

It soon could be a bit quicker to drive through Clinton on Charles G. Seivers Boulevard.

No, the speed limit isn’t increasing. But the time vehicles must spend waiting for traffic lights should be decreasing.

Thanks to a $150,000 Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement grant the city of Clinton received last year from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the traffic signals along Seivers Boulevard from Interstate 75 to the western city limits will be retimed and sequenced to improve traffic flow.

“We’re trying to get the flow where when you get off the interstate and head toward Oak Ridge, you will be able to move through the traffic lights without much delay,” City Manager Roger Houck said.

The goal – and the reason for this specific grant – is to cut down on traffic idling at red lights, which is expected to reduce tailpipe emissions and help clean up the air.

In the same vein, many new vehicles now come with a feature that automatically shuts off the engine when the car stops in traffic, then automatically restarts the engine when the driver lifts his foot off the brake pedal.

Although the city received the grant last summer, the contractor for the project waited until school was back in session to conduct a traffic-flow study to develop a plan for resetting the timing of the lights, Houck said. The heaviest traffic occurs when schools are in session.

Armed with data from the study, Cannon & Cannon Engineering of Knoxville will be retiming the lights this week, then monitoring the new traffic flow for two to three weeks so any further necessary changes can be made to “get them right,” Houck said.

The work on the lights will begin at Interstate 75 and continue west through town. The engineers will make the changes in the control boxes mounted on poles at the sides of the road, and will not have to do anything to the overhead lights, Houck said. That means there won’t be any traffic impediments as the work progresses.

“The motoring public may notice some differences [in timing] at some locations, especially with the protected-turn sequencing,” according to a city notice about the project.

The goal is to have motorists encounter mostly green lights as they drive through town on Seivers, although the protected-left-turn lights can put some delays into the process.

Oak Ridge used to have a similar setup, in which vehicles driving exactly at the speed limit – which at that time was 40 mph – could catch a green light coming into town on Oak Ridge Turnpike and continue hitting green lights all the way through town, without ever having to stop at a red light.

Houck said Clinton’s goal is to get to that same situation as closely as possible. Right now, traffic moving completely through town on Seivers often must stop multiple times at red lights, some of which are rather long.

According to the traffic survey, “On an average weekday on the [Seivers] boulevard, about 32,000 vehicles a day pass the intersection at Hillvale Road, near Walmart,” Houck said. “At Longmire [near Big Lots], about 27,000 vehicles pass, and at Broad Street [downtown], about 24,000 vehicles. That’s quite a few cars.

“Hopefully, this will make it flow better,” he said.