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Fox 25 Boston
Bob Dumas

BOSTON - Getting around Boston can be tough, with many intersections gridlocked at all hours of the day.


For years, the city’s traffic signals have been manually controlled by engineers on the seventh floor of City Hall. They watch video feeds from about 500 different intersections and make timing adjustments as needed.


Boston’s burgeoning Seaport District is one of the areas where traffic can get congested quick. “There’s more traffic, more trucks, more congestion.  Yea, there’s just more of everything,” Rosalie Gannon, who works in the city, said.

That’s why city officials are considering the Seaport as one of their first trial sites for a new traffic management system. 

“Adaptive traffic signal controls allows for dynamic adjustments to those traffic patterns,” explained Boston traffic commissioner Gina Fiandaca. “The system would detect any sort of changes in the traffic flow and make adjustments in real time.

Instead of the engineers manually changing the timing of lights, a computer based program would take over. Fiandaca said this type of system takes a big picture approach to managing congestion.

“Instead of making one adjustment at one intersection, the system would dynamically know to make adjustments thru out the corridor, to optimize the flow of traffic, so you don't have the sort of the stops and starts, a rough adjustment to the traffic flow. There would be a smoother adjustment,” Fiandaca said.

In his State of the City address, Mayor Marty Walsh promised the use of cutting edge technology to alleviate backups on Boston’s roads.

Matt Casale, a transportation expert with MassPirg, said this type of modification doesn’t address the root of the city’s problem. We have too many cars on the road, and so we should be encouraging these other modes of transportation:  walking, bike, bus, and train,” he said.

However, Casale did add that tuning the traffic lights isn’t necessarily a bad idea. “I think this is part of a bigger trend, and I think overall it's a good trend,” he said. “We should be looking for new technology to make our transportation system better.”

One driver told us he’d take whatever relief he can get. “I think that there is a need for improvement in the transportation infrastructure, and I think that it’s not catching up with the population,” he said.

The city hopes to put the project out to bid in the next few months. Commissioner Fiandaca tells us she’d like to roll it out next year.

The city is responsible for about 850 signalized intersections.

You can watch the video here.

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