Alabama is not traditionally a beach state, so most of our tourists don’t think of beach traffic as a deterrent to vacationing or moving there. Yet Alabama, like its Gulf Coast neighbors, has a plethora of gorgeous beach space. Unfortunately, this means beach traffic increases during spring and summer. Gulf Coast residents have spent decades circumventing the worst of the traffic and have finally perfected some key improvements.
Baldwin and Foley Counties were recently singled out for their focus on “smart” traffic signal systems. These are adaptive systems wherein traffic lights are outfitted with car-detecting cameras that can communicate between each traffic light and signal. The system is not fully operational yet, but once it is, county officials expect traffic lights to “change in real time.” This is possible because the hardware inside each system will respond to traffic flow along Highway 59 and other busy thoroughfares. The signals will help officials determine how much “green time” is needed at each light and how long traffic should be expected to stop.
Gulf Shores Public Works Director Mark Acreman explains that with the new smart traffic signals, all the intersections in and around Highway 59 will be synchronized and able to communicate with each other in real time. Traffic signals will have a “fiber optic backbone,” making their material lighter and more durable than traditional metal traffic signals. Fiberglass can also carry more information at higher speeds than metal or wire, which allows communications to travel faster and should speed up traffic. This way, jams and accidents will be more easily avoided.
Baldwin County has been working on adaptive traffic lights and patterns for about a decade. Officials signed a $290,000 contract with Bagby and Russell Electric Company Inc. in January 2014. The contract covers installation of responsive traffic controls at four of the busiest intersections along the state highway including Beach Boulevard. On Monday, March 16, City Council was due to sign a $700,000 contract with Bagby & Russell Electric Company Inc. to complete an upgrade to responsive traffic control. One key upgrade will involve using radar cameras rather than video in traffic light signals and communication.
Kris Powell and associates remind all Alabama residents and tourists to stay safe on the road and at the beach while the smart traffic system is upgraded and after the system is operational. If possible, avoid heavy-traffic times and visit the beach in the morning or early evening. Obey speed limit and stop signs, and cooperate with police officers if pulled over. Keep your license and registration current. Give other cars plenty of room to pass where they need to, especially if you drive a large vehicle. Always watch out for pedestrians and bikers, especially in crosswalks.
Have a great time everyone visiting the state of Alabama!