Four UTC engineering students on Tuesday afternoon gave their ideas for improving traffic in congested East Brainerd to the East Brainerd Chamber Council on Tuesday afternoon. The study was the result of a year-long effort by Mark Skelton, Weiran Yang, Charlie Vaden and Lonnie Higgins.
Mr. Vaden said, "We were brought about to give a fresh set of eyes."
The objective of their study was to look at current traffic and growth patterns in the area around Gunbarrel Road and then use that data to create a 40-year projection.
They said, "If we can go 40 years down the road and maintain the same level of service that we're getting today, we consider that a major accomplishment."
For traffic engineers, level of service is graded by the flow of traffic on roads and delay time at intersections. A grade A is given for roads where drivers can go the speed limit with freedom to maneuver and intersections with a delay time of 10 seconds or less. A grade F would be given to a road with stop and go traffic and intersections with delay times over 80 seconds.
Guided by their projected growth data, the engineers developed several suggestions in order for the city to maintain and improve the level of service in the East Brainerd area.
Their first suggestion was to create additional lanes, specifically more designated right turn lanes. They said, "The number one way to increase your level of service is to add a lane." Creating more devoted right turn lanes would help keep traffic from being stopped while waiting for someone to turn.
The engineers also proposed the use of roundabouts for smaller service intersections, saying that roundabouts have been shown to reduce head-on collisions and traffic fatalities.
Their next suggestion was to upgrade the entire light system network to use Smart Signal Timing. Smart Signal Timing uses a wireless sensor that affects all of the intersections in a given area and works to optimize traffic flow. Research shows it can reduce traffic delay by up to 70 percent.
Their last suggestion was to implement a trolley or bus system, similar to that of the downtown area. This could help eliminate store-to-store traffic in the area.
The estimated cost for all of these changes totaled approximately $150 million. However, these upgrades would provide a quicker commute to work for residents, increased revenue for local businesses, and they would make the area more attractive for future residents.