Among public works problems that get citizens' attention, traffic problems rank high on the list. Nothing gets a public works official's phone ringing with angry calls quite like recurring bumper-to-bumper congestion on a municipality's roadways, and with towns all across the country experiencing record growth, traffic is becoming a quandary that needs to be dealt with efficiently, creatively, and immediately.

Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) offer a range of ways for agencies, large and small, to combat headaches. However, with advances in traffic signal control coming at a rapid pace, keeping up with all the changes, designing a system that fits your needs, and implementing and managing an ITS can be challenging.

The ITS Decision Web site——profiles a project launched by the California Center for Innovative Transportation, which is a unit of the University of California Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies, and the California Department of Transportation. Designed primarily as a resource for local and regional transportation decision-makers, the site offers comprehensive information about ITS services and technologies, assembling data and research from wide-ranging sources, digesting it, and presenting it in an objective, helpful manner.

According to the site, there are several reasons why implementing an ITS and using advanced signal control would be beneficial to your agency. In a network of streets with poorly timed signals, for example, the fuel consumed by vehicles stopping and idling accounts for approximately 40% of network-wide fuel consumption. In addition, because urban growth has left many municipalities with no room left to expand their streets and roads, optimizing traffic signal control is critical to keeping an agency's road system from working at maximum capacity, and not straining beyond it.

Actuated signal controllers

The ASC/3 series of advanced system controllers complies with all National Electrical Manufacturers Association TS2 and National Transportation Communications for ITS Protocol requirements. Its hardware design allows it to serve as a platform for traffic management systems or for future upgraded environments. Compatible with all of the company's existing systems, it uses a reliable, easy-to-maintain controller. Users can perform quick updates in the field without having to change hardware. Other features include 120 coordination patterns, 64 vehicle detectors, 200 programmable schedule programs, and a range of control capabilities. Econolite Control Products Inc.

Rugged data counter

The Delta III portable road-tube classifier can withstand harsh operating conditions while collecting data or performing volume studies on multi-lane, high-traffic roadways. Single-button operation enables the user to select data type and layout; then, simply press the start button three times to begin collecting data. With the company's TMWin or vehicle identification and analysis system software, the user can collect and analyze data for a wide range of reports. It features standard 2 MB memory (upgradable to 4 MB), long battery life, and durable but lightweight construction. TimeMark Inc.

Bike path signal

The Cross Alert System, when positioned at a site where a bike path intersects with a roadway, detects motion on the path and warns motorists by flashing an amber warning light. Radio-controlled early-warning poles that flash when path activity is detected can be placed as far as 400 feet from intersections where a higher speed limit or restricted sight distance factor in. The product is best for two-lane roads with average daily traffic of less than 15,000 vehicles. It can work off of a battery alone for more than a week. The signage can be customized to fit the needs of a particular application. Cross Alert Systems.

Portable traffic counter

The Hi-Star portable traffic counter/ classifier is a small unit that, when placed in the center of a traffic lane, provides data on volume, speed, and length of vehicles; temperature; and wet/dry conditions. The product can be used for volume and time studies on public roadways, monitoring speeds on parking lots and in garages, and other public or private applications. Its Windows-based software programs and retrieves data from the unit, then correlates traffic study data and presents it in an easily interpreted report. Nu-Metrics, a Quixote Transportation Technologies Co.

Plastic safety barricade

Designed for use as a short-term traffic redirection device, the Road-Runner RUT model 66 plastic safety barricade offers the strong visibility of a solid barrier, but is highly portable. Because it can be stacked, it saves transportation, storage, and handling costs. A 1-ton truck can carry 330 feet of barricade to a zone in a single trip, and one operator can set up and take it down. The barrier is inherently stable, but water or sand can be added to each base for additional ballast. Premier Plastics Inc.

Work-zone signs

The company offers an array of signs and stands for use around construction work zones. The line includes a number of sign stands designed for quick access and compact storage. In addition, the company has added several models to its line of reflective and mesh signs. Work Area Protection Corp. www.workarea