Engineers not giving up after Highway 97 traffic signal flop in Kelowna

Trying again on traffic lights

Provincial traffic engineers are going back to the drawing board after new traffic signal timing on Highway 97 in Kelowna flopped.

After months of work and the installation of new equipment, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure flipped the switch on May 6 on a new traffic light timing program for ten intersections east of the Bennett Bridge.

“There is, as you know, significant congestion in the City of Kelowna, so we were trying out new signal timing,” said Brigid Canil, director of transportation systems and road safety engineering.

Canil says they quickly determined things were not working as hoped, and on May 9, reverted to the old system.

Drivers may have noticed during the rollout that traffic was moving slower than expected with some reporting additional delays of 30 minutes to get over the Bennett Bridge during the morning commute.

Canil says the systems that manage the traffic lights on Harvey Avenue in Kelowna are “quite complex.”

Each major intersection has an industrial computer that performs calculations while intaking data from sensors and cameras to help determine light timing.

“It's programmed by our electricians that go out into the field, and they enter in that programming,” Canil said. “The industrial computer also collects information at the same time, it knows if there's a fire truck or ambulance coming, or a transit bus.”

“If there's lots of cars building up on one side of the intersection, it knows that because it's got cameras, and it can measure it, and it can see it.”

Despite the setback, Canil says they are not done trying to make improvements to the system.

“We want to try again, we need to go back to the drawing board and regroup,” she said, explaining there may be some code programming changes that are necessary that are more complex than simple timing.

“I understand that it was inconvenient for the public, and I'm sure there are people that were frustrated… we apologize for that. However, we do want to keep trying, and we do want to keep trying to improve the traffic congestion situation in Kelowna.”

She said they do not have a schedule as to when they would attempt more changes.

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