U of M Researchers Work to Speed Wait Times at Traffic Lights

Updated: 05/14/2013 6:30 AM KSTP.com By: Katherine Johnson

Researchers at the University of Minnesota are working to help drivers plan routes around traffic on side streets before they even leave the house.

We expect traffic on freeways and interstates but the backup caused by construction on I-94 and 35W last weekend clogged side streets for hours.

"I've been trying to get to work for a half hour and I've finally gone a couple miles," said one driver.

"Well we definitely didn't expect it," said another.

But what if you could? Researchers at the University of Minnesota are working on a way to do just that.

The SMART Signal logs drivers' actual wait times at dozens of intersections. The data is then compiled to show real-time traffic information online.

Before SMART Signal, engineers could only log and adjust the timing of traffic lights every five years and it costs about $5,000 per intersection to do it.

"Based on that information we can do a much better job to retime the signal," said Systems Engineer Heng Hu.

Hu hopes to launch a user-friendly website through MnDOT in the coming year to turn a profit off his project and help drivers avoid getting stuck waiting on side streets for hours.

So far, 48 intersections are equipped with SNART Signal. Sixty intersections are slated to be hooked up with the device by the end of the summer.