Radar-based traffic detectors at six intersections in Oak Ridge can replace in-pavement loops used to detect vehicles at stoplights, and the city has long-term plans to move to the radar-based systems.
The detectors will be installed on the new stoplight on Oak Ridge Turnpike in front of Oak Ridge High School. They are also included in a plan to improve two intersections on Oak Ridge Turnpike, one at South Tulane Avenue and the other at East Division Road/Tennyson Road.
“We have kind of adopted them because they just work,” said Jon van Eek, power utilization program supervisor in the Oak Ridge Electric Department.
The city has previously tried video detection systems and microwave systems. The video systems did not work well in heavy rain and fog, and had some angle of light issues, according to van Eek and Oak Ridge Electric Director Jack Suggs.
“It was not reliable,” van Eek said Friday.
The radar-based systems are from a company called Wavetronix, and they are installed at six intersections: Oak Ridge Turnpike at West Main Street (in front of Walgreen’s), Oak Ridge Turnpike at Melton Lake Drive, Ivanhoe at North Illinois Avenue (near Kroger), Robertsville Road at Oak Ridge Turnpike (also near Kroger), Florida Avenue and Oak Ridge Turnpike, and on South Illinois Avenue near Aubrey’s restaurant.
Suggs said the in-pavement loops are subject to shifting asphalt and wire corrosion. It’s good technology, but not as reliable or robust as desired, he said. It can also be difficult to pick up motorcycles on the in-pavement loops.
Officials said the radar-based systems are easier to maintain and becoming more standard across the country. Suggs and van Eek said they can detect vehicles and determine where they are, and even detect bicycles—and pedestrians.
The systems include a radar-detecting box with a “brain” or central processing unit. They can be programmed and their parameters can be changed. It’s easy to reprogram them when, for example, a new traffic lane is added, Suggs said.
The radar-based systems are more expensive “on the front end” but cheaper in the long run, van Eek said. An intersection with radar-based systems for all four directions of travel can cost about $25,000.
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