Harrisonburg City Council approves traffic flow grant application, environmental building standards

Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 5:41 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The Harrisonburg City Council met on Wednesday night and heard a request from the city’s Public Works Department to submit a SMART grant application for a traffic flow improvement study.

The U.S. Department of Transportation grant would fund a study on the potential impact of the combination of two traffic flow technologies along the Port Republic Road corridor. The first technology is the Centracs Edaptive traffic signal adaptive system which the city implemented on the road corridor over the summer.

“Basically that technology allows our traffic signals from Bluestone and Port to Devon and Port to all communicate so we know how many vehicles are coming into the intersection and how many are leaving,” said Harrisonburg Public Works Director Tom Hartman.

As the cameras count the vehicles entering and exiting each intersection the system sends the data through controllers to the cloud where it is run through an algorithm that helps the Public Works Department monitor the traffic flow. The system also makes adjustments based on the level of traffic.

“We push new timing plans or new timing adjustments down to those intersections. The reason that’s important is that it allows us to make small changes during the very peak times of Port Republic Road that allows the traffic to move through sooner,” said Hartman.

The grant study would conduct the feasibility of pairing the Edaptive system with a not yet implemented transit priority system that tracks where city buses are on their routes.

“We would collect the data from the buses, tell the traffic cabinets Bus A is on schedule or if Bus A is behind schedule it can tell the signal to allow this bus to get through this intersection faster which allows it to stay on time and increase reliability,” said Hartman.

The grant is broken up into a test stage to fund the study and a second stage to fund further implementation of the technologies across the city if they prove to be effective together. The city has to submit an application for the grant by Friday, November 18.

The council approved this request unanimously.

On Wednesday the council also voted on whether to adopt new environmental standards for newly constructed or renovated city buildings.

Council voted on a resolution that would take effect on January 1, 2023, and reflects Virginia’s High-Performance Building Act which requires buildings constructed or renovated by localities to meet Virginia’s Energy Conservation and Environmental Standards.

“This would help to show that Harrisonburg is a leader, that we not only encourage residents to cut down on their emissions but we are also actively looking to reduce ours by implementing this state law earlier than required as well as adding additional provisions to it,” said Keith Thomas, Harrisonburg’s Sustainability and Environmental Manager.

Requirements of the state law include Electric Vehicle Charging stations and tracking energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Harrisonburg’s resolution would also require city staff to include solar energy infrastructure on new buildings whenever possible.

“It would require staff to evaluate and whenever economically feasible during the 20-year lifestyle we would put solar on the buildings,” said Thomas. “There would be adding solar panels to the roof of any of these buildings or planning for solar panels to be up there as well as just energy efficiency which would reduce energy consumption.”

This resolution passed unopposed.