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IDOT: Backup Batteries, Generators To Power Traffic Lights In Outages

Meeting of village officials focuses on communication to assist each other.

Communication also took the forefront in Thursday's meeting of more than 40 mayors and managers from a dozen north suburban communities when impact traffic lights.

 sought to build consensus on how the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) could help the communities at the meeting held in Lake Forest.

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Steve Travia, IDOT's bureau chief for traffic in the Chicago area, told the group of the improvements his department is making to install more equipment with backup batteries and the ability to run on generators. 

“About 20 percent of the traffic lights in our six county area (including Cook and Lake Counties) are equipped now,” Travia said. “We have a two-year plan to upgrade the system.”

He also added there are financial constrictions that will not allow faster completion.

Garrett also wanted to establish better communication lines between communities, IDOT and ComEd during a weather crisis. 

“When there is no power, how can we communicate,” Garrett asked, noting telephones need electricity to function. “Can we use text messages? How can we gather cell phone information?”

Ed60062 August 01, 2011 at 02:23 AM
A waste of money. I think we can deal with four way stops when the traffic signals are out for a few hours. Generators will have to be fueled, periodically tested, and maintained--additional expense to go on forever. Let's learn to put up with a few inconveniences in life. There are bigger things to worry about.
Stu Pidasso August 01, 2011 at 05:50 AM
agreed. good post Ed. As a country there are far more serious issues than being concerned about battery backup for a stoplight. If our top politicians put as much effort into the "real" issues plaguing our country, as they do in the above matter, we would be in great shape!!
Ed60062 August 01, 2011 at 01:29 PM
Traffic engineers (as well as every other bureaucratic agency) have a job to do, and to justify their existence they have to keep the system running smoothly and make improvements. Politicians get votes by improving life and removing problems for citizens. In the meantime, the country is broke, the state is broke, the county is broke--all because no one has the guts to say "no."
RonnieTheLimoDriver August 01, 2011 at 01:48 PM
I agree all levels of government need to spend money more carefully. I disagree with the sentiment that backup systems for traffic lights are a waste of money. Certainly, not every intersection justifies this. However, the traffic light at Lake-Cook and Waukegan was out for more than a day back during the multi-day outage in June. Traffic on Waukegan was backed up all the way past Osterman. This is an issue of safety. What would have happen if there was a fire or need for an ambulance, and our public safety vehicles needed to travel this roadway. How much valuable time would have been lost trying to navigate that mess of traffic? Also, with an intersection that busy with turn lanes in all four directions, people get confused / disregard the process for waiting their turn. Im not sure if there were accidents but I certainly could see how they could happen. At night people unfamiliar with the intersection could miss the stop sign altogether. Once the power was out for that long there was no flashing red, just a stop sign on the traffic light that is easy to miss. If it was simply an issue of a few hours of inconvenience, then the other commenters would have a valid case. However, the track record for ComEd lately has shown that sometimes it takes days to get the power back on. I didn’t even cover the economic impact. My time is worth money and an extra 30-40 mins wasted is not insignificant, when you multiply this by the number of people impacted.
Bryce Robertson August 02, 2011 at 12:55 AM
Or we put roundabouts in and do away with traffic signals (and running red lights) all together? Seems to work in the UK pretty well... the only roundabouts with traffic lights there are high volume ones in major cities (i.e. you would see one at the equivalent of the Circle). We have one (albeit small) by our house in HP and it works wonders (sans the time a UPS truck beached itself because the driver wasn't familiar with the concept).

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