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Traffic Engineers Key To Safe Traffic Flow

December 19, 2013, 9:55 PM by Jared Ransom

Traffic Engineers Key To Safe Traffic Flow

Traffic lights in Sioux Falls change from green to yellow to red hundreds of times each and every day, and all of these changes are pre-determined at the desk of a traffic engineer.

"Getting the signal system in place and having an orderly flow of traffic is pretty important to generally move lots of people around a city," Sioux Falls Traffic Engineer Heath Hoftiezer said.

Hoftiezer is in the epicenter of Sioux Falls traffic control on a daily basis, making sure each traffic light is operating as it should.

With the click of the mouse, he can affect the speed of a signal or even change the light completely.

"We can see what traffic flow is doing and if we have some left turns that are starting to really back up or thru movements that are backing up, we can make adjustments to fix what's going on," Hoftiezer said.

The traffic engineers use five cameras placed on 41st Street and around the city to keep an eye on traffic flow, keeping a finger on the pulse of city traffic when observation is needed the most.

Where lights are located also plays a big role in making sure traffic is moving smoothly, and there are benchmarks in place to determine where they should go.

"We look to make sure it has the volume that's needed on a side street that justifies having enough traffic to need the signals. We look at spacing between signals," Hoftiezer said.

The length of a red light will vary from intersection to intersection based on activity and the time of day, and driver safety plays a major role in setting how long a light should last.

"One of the key things in programming of the traffic signals isn't maybe so much getting traffic to flow through as much as it is safely storing the traffic between the intersections," Hoftiezer said.

As you head out shopping this weekend and are stuck in traffic, Hoftiezer and his team will ready to make the quick changes to keep your travels safe.

Once major construction is done on Russell Street, two more traffic cameras will be added near the new events center to give Hoftiezer and his team more tools to keep city traffic moving smoothly and safely.

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