Session One: Head Out on the Highway—Exploring the Transportation Center
Thursday we headed out on the highways to check out the Transportation Center responsible for managing and maintaining all traffic operations. All I can say is, next time you’re on the road appreciate all the traffic signals, traffic signs, traffic control equipment and temporary traffic control out there. Although this department is small in numbers, they cover a huge territory and and ever increasing demand for traffic control. With only 40 people they install and maintain all this:
- 900 square miles (the size of Hillsborough County)
- 150,000 signs
- 1340 control devices
- 550 signalized intersection
- 490 school beacons
- 3620 street light repairs
- 2746 speed humps
- 2200 pedestrian crosswalks
- 3000 inspections
- 250 lane and road closures and special events
You don’t think of everything that goes into keeping things safe on the road and running smoothly. It’s anything but a carefree highway. If you take a simple intersection, for example, there are traffic signals and cross walks. Big deal. But we don’t always see what goes into it.
- Traffic signal
- Communications in the traffic signal that run the programming and timing of the signal along with exchange information with the Transportation Center
- Intersection lighting
- Vehicle detection system (either in ground or via camera)
- Cross walk signals
- Painted lane lines
- In-ground reflectors
- Multiple safety signs
- Emergency vehicle preemptive signaling (the thing that changes a light when a first responder is coming through)
- Wiring and fiber optics to the signals
- Street identification signs
And that’s just the intersections. The county is also responsible for all the school zone and driver feedback lights, temporary lane closure and events that need lane closures and on and on. If you consider that Hillsborough County in the fourth largest county in the state with all those miles of roadways to keep happy, you would think they have a huge staff and budget. Not really. Their operating budget (this does not include salaries) is only $1.4 million while they only have a little more than 40 people, including office staff, to keep all of us on the go.
And some things just take time. They were explaining the process of simply putting in traffic light at an intersection. Because this has to walk though the entire process it can take two years from concept to implementation and cost $750,000. Now I understand why some things take so long.
It really surprised me how much is being done with so few people. This session really opened my eyes to the highway operations and everything that goes into it.
I’ll post a couple more times where I take a look at some of the ways they get everything and the people that do it all!