FAIRFIELD — Metering lights along local Interstate 80 have sat inactive ever since they were installed more than a year ago, but that could change in 2013.
At the very least, the lights should be the topic of local discussion and perhaps public hearings.
The state Department of Transportation installed metering lights along I-80 on ramps in Fairfield in 2011 as part of the car pool lane project. It also directed Fairfield to install metering lights as part of the city’s North Texas Street interchange renovation project completed in 2010. It plans to install more in Vallejo and in Vacaville.
Caltrans is seeking operating agreements with the local cities to turn the lights on, Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls said. The Fairfield, Vacaville and Vallejo city councils would vote on those agreements.
In addition, Caltrans wants an agreement with the Solano Transportation Authority to turn on the metering lights on the ramps between Highway 12 and I-80 – what Halls called the “freeway-to-freeway” connections.
A Metropolitan Transportation Commission consultant has been gathering traffic data associated with the local lights. Halls expects the information to be released early next year.
“We want to make sure any impact on the local jurisdictions gets considered,” Halls said.
For example, he noted there is a metering light along the ramp leading from Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon onto I-80.
“Obviously, I-80 is a big priority of the state,” Halls said. “But we also don’t want to create traffic backup on Highway 12.”
Some of the local on ramps are short, Halls said. Again, the goal is to make certain that ramp metering lights don’t back up traffic onto local roads.
Among the things to be decided is what hours the metering lights would operate and at what intervals the signals would change.
“There’s going to be a big discussion early next year and probably through the summer,” Halls said. “I just don’t know how long it would take.”
Ramp metering is a component of what the Metropolitan Transportation Commission calls the Freeway Performance Initiative. The stated goal is to get more capacity out of existing roadways.
Another component of the initiative slated to come to the local I-80 stretch at some point is more traffic information signs similar to the one near Green Valley.
Caltrans first began looking at metering lights during the 1960s in Southern California on Interstate 101. Today, the Los Angeles/Ventura area has meters at 900 ramps and 23 freeway-to-freeway connections, according to a Caltrans report.
The goal of ramp metering lights is to improve freeway traffic flow by spacing out the vehicles that enter.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.