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Development & Transportation

City Plans to Phase Out 50-Year-Old Traffic Signals in Downtown Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Department of Public Works will soon be outfitting 11 downtown intersections with brand new traffic lights, poles, wires and pedestrian signals.

Legislation to approve the upgrades is up for a final vote in City Council on Tuesday.

DPW Deputy Director Patrick Hasset said the new signals will also be connected via fiber optic cables to the DPW’s control room in City Hall, where they’ll be able to control the signals remotely. Currently, the department can remotely control about 130 the city’s more than 600 signals.

“It allows us to observe what’s going on at the intersections in terms of the signals and their workings,” Hassett said. “It allows us to make changes to those signals should traffic conditions warrant that, such as an accident or closures of various roads for construction purposes, or even events for that matter.”

This is the second phase of a project to replace traffic signals that were installed in the 1960s and ‘70s. Hassett said the DPW currently has to send someone out to the intersection to adjust the timing of those older signals whenever a problem arises.

“There’s a total of … 40 intersections that we want to upgrade with this new equipment,” Hassett said. “Phase one did four plus the communications software. Phase two is doing 11. The next two phases, three and four, will complete the rest of the 40 signals we need to upgrade.”

The Federal Highway Administration is picking up the bulk of the $4 million tab for the 11 signals, though the city of Pittsburgh will kick in around $800,000.

Hassett said, while that may seem like a lot of money for just 11 intersections, the upgrades will improve both safety and traffic flow.

“In terms of making traffic improvements out there, both from a safety perspective and a capacity perspective, we get the biggest bang for our buck in improving the traffic signals and the intersections and how they operate out there,” Hassett said. “So that’s why we’re focusing what may seem to be a lot of money on these type of improvements.”

Intersections that will see new traffic signals include four intersections on Smithfield Street, Third Avenue at Santwix Street, and two intersections on Ross Street, among others.

Hassett said phase two of the upgrades will be complete by Summer 2015.