Signal Spotlight: New Haven’s Edgewood Cycle Track
In a city where 20% of residents commute via walking or biking, safe routes to schools and places of work are essential. Four kindergarten-through-eighth-grade schools are situated along the Edgewood Avenue corridor, which connects the Westville neighborhoods to the job centers in the Elm City’s central business district. Edgewood Avenue was designed to be a local road but has become a main thoroughfare consisting of two-way boulevard sections and one-way sections between the Westville neighborhood and the city center. Nine signalized intersections along the corridor lack pedestrian accommodation, and there are no existing accommodations for bicyclists.
The City of New Haven initiated a project to construct a 2.5-mile cycle track along the Edgewood Avenue Corridor that is the first protected cycle track of its kind in Connecticut. The City applied for and received $1.2 Million in Community Connectivity Grant funds from the CTDOT to install the two-way, parking-protected cycle track. The cycle track will begin at Forest Road in Westville and continue to Park Street in downtown New Haven and is designed to provide safe access for all users along the route, including pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. Construction is underway and is expected to be completed in 2021.
The cycle track is protected from vehicular traffic with paint and reflective bollards and uses a parking lane as a buffer to allow for safer routes to local schools, employment centers and Edgewood Park. The additional paint and bollards are expected to calm traffic along the corridor, improving safety and reducing emissions by reducing vehicular speeds.
Traffic Signal Innovations
The Edgewood Cycle Track project includes eleven signalized intersections and incorporates several innovative traffic signal technologies, including an adaptive system, bicycle detection, and connected vehicle technology. The intersection of Winthrop at Edgewood was a two-way stop-controlled intersection and will be converted to a signalized intersection as part of the project. At the west end of the corridor, there are four newer 2070-type controllers installed seven or eight years ago. The remaining signals have older NEMA controllers that are 20 to 25 years old.
At the intersections with older controllers, GridSmart video detection cameras will be connected to the central system via existing telephone lines. At the newer intersections with Econolite 2070 controllers, the video detection is connected via fiber. Upgrades at the signalized intersections include new conduit for the wiring to the bicycle and pedestrian signal heads as well as upgrades to the sidewalks and physical infrastructure to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.
RSUs (RoadSide Units) transmit SPaT (signal phasing and timing) information that drivers and bicyclists can see using a GPS-enabled app. The City contracted with Traffic Systems, Inc. to offer the free mobile app for users to download. At the signals connected to the central system, SPaT data will be broadcast to drivers and bicyclists. At isolated intersections, the GPS feature will allow bicyclists to be alerted to the presence of approaching vehicles. The RSUs come with five years of wireless service, so the phone lines at the intersections with RSUs will be disconnected to save the city taxpayers money.
In addition to vehicle detection, the GridSmart cameras installed at the intersections will be used for bicycle detection. When riding a bicycle down a corridor, there is typically what Doug Hausladen, the City’s Transportation, Traffic and Parking Director, calls an “effort curve.” If a bicyclist is forced to stop at a signalized intersection, it takes great effort for them to go from zero to one mile per hour, but once the bicyclist is traveling at a steady speed, bicycling is generally quite easy. With SPaT information, bicyclists may adjust their speed to avoid stopping and smooth out their effort curve.
At the intersection of Edgewood Avenue at Route 10 (Ella T Grasso Boulevard), exclusive bicycle phasing will be provided. To prevent conflicts between bicycle movements and left- and right-turning vehicular movements, the bicycles traveling along the Edgewood Avenue cycle track will have a protected signal phase during which all motor vehicles are stopped.
CTtransit operates the 246 Route along Edgewood Avenue, and it is also a priority route for emergency vehicles. Emergency vehicle pre-emption equipment will be installed to give transit and emergency vehicles the right of way along Edgewood Avenue.
The design process for the traffic signals was completed in-house by the City and took two years, with several rounds of CTDOT comments and design revisions. One of the major design challenges faced by the City’s engineers was working within the limited structural capacity of the existing traffic signal supports. Ideally, the bicycle signal heads would be placed at the far side of the intersection on the mast arm. The City hired a structural engineering consultant to examine the adequacy of each of the existing structures to support the weight of the additional equipment. The consultant found that the pedestrian and bicycle signals could not safely be added to the 30-year-old mast arm supports.
City engineers were forced to change the design to provide side-mounted bicycle signals on aluminum pedestals to achieve far-side placement of pedestrian signal indications. In 2015, the City submitted 36 individual submissions for each signalized intersection and responded to four rounds of comments. In the end, the traffic signals were not perfect FHWA model designs, but the City was entrepreneurial and came up with an acceptable solution that accommodates all users at the intersection. In addition to coordination with FHWA in the design of the bicycle signals, the City got interim approval to paint what are nicknamed “elephant tracks,” the wide green painted stripes used to guide bicyclists through an intersection.
The roadway and traffic signal improvements were originally to be bid as one project, but ultimately the project was divided up to prevent the traffic signal portion of the project from holding up construction on the other components of the cycle track.
Vulnerable road users are killed on New Haven’s streets every year, including twelve in the year 2020, but the City is working hard to reduce that number. In 2009, the City conducted a planning study to identify gaps in the bicycle network and to identify short-, medium- and long-range improvements that would make travel safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. The City continues to use the plan to guide investment in infrastructure for vulnerable road users with the goal of having a citywide network of protected bicycle routes.
If you have traffic signal systems questions, please contact:
Theresa Schwartz, P.E., P.T.O.E. – Traffic Signal Circuit Rider