Signal system could ease Lynnwood traffic woes

LYNNWOOD — Driving through Lynnwood should get easier in 2014.

The city has work planned next summer to adjust traffic lights along Highway 99 and 196th Street SW, also known as Highway 524.

The project should ease congestion and reduce driving times along two of Lynnwood’s most-used arterials, said Paul Coffelt, the city traffic engineer.

“It’s really the ultimate,” he said. “It’s what we’ve been wanting to do with the technology and traffic operations for more than 20 years.”

More than 18,000 drivers travel Highway 524 each day, city data show. Highway 99 in Lynnwood sees about 22,500 cars daily.

The traffic-signal project will cost $472,500. That’s coming out of about $1.79 million in federal highway grants, Mayor Don Gough said.

“We’re starting to implement a lot of that,” Gough said. “We’ve got like five or six different programs operating … just a bunch of things, all dealing with traffic and transportation.”

The project involves installing equipment that enables the lights at each intersection to relay information to one another about traffic volume, Coffelt said.

Then, each signal “knows what’s coming and knows it needs to give a certain amount of green to that demand,” he said.

The city hasn’t had that capability before. It was too expensive, and until recently, the technology didn’t exist that could work with Lynnwood’s existing traffic-monitoring system, Coffelt said.

The affected areas are Highway 99 between 164th Street SW to 238th Street SW and along 196th Street SW, from 76th Avenue W. to 24th Avenue W.

Lynnwood officials are working with folks in Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds and the state transportation department on the Highway 99 project, Coffelt said. The work isn’t expected to cause road closures or delays.

Afterward, drivers should see reduced wait times at those signals, he said. The project shouldn’t affect folks who are waiting to drive across the arterials either.

Lynnwood’s traffic troubles are unpredictable and happen even outside of commute times, Coffelt said.

“Our congestion becomes spillover queuing into the next intersection, and we wind up with gridlock,” he said.

The new equipment will not change yellow-light lengths, Coffelt said.

Some of the intersections that will be affected by the project are those with the city’s controversial traffic-enforcement cameras. The new equipment won’t change how those cameras work.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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