Columbus council OKs $13.5M more toward improved traffic flow

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The Columbus City Council on Monday approved $13.5 million toward a joint effort to link traffic signals into a centrally controlled computer network that promises to move vehicles in central Ohio more efficiently.

The contract will help fund installation of fiber-optic cable, traffic-flow monitors, and other equipment to migrate the Columbus traffic signals to a new central system throughout Franklin County and southern Delaware County. Another 95 miles of fiber-optic cable will be installed to connect 215 traffic signals, including along high-traffic corridors such as South High Street, Hilliard-Rome Road, New Albany Road and the Polaris and Easton shopping regions.

Monday’s expenditure will add to about $50 million that the city has already spent to build a traffic-management center, install 94 cameras, upgrade nearly 800 traffic signals and link them with almost 400 miles of fiber-optic cable since 2010. City traffic engineers can monitor traffic cameras positioned throughout the city and use data from Google and transportation-analytics company Inrix to monitor traffic conditions, and can respond to accidents or other traffic snarls by changing the timing of lights in a corridor.

“This is a multi-year project that we’ve been doing mostly with federal funds to upgrade the signals throughout the city of Columbus,” city Public Service Director Jennifer Gallagher told The Dispatch after the meeting. “There are other locations where we go through jurisdictions, and we have been working with them,” such as Bexley and Whitehall. 

Whether the city of Columbus controls the signals in other cities is subject to individual agreements, Gallagher said. Gudenkauf Corporation, which has done the previous work to date, also was awarded the most recent contract in a re-bid after bids in April were tossed due to “anomalies” over whether city or state guidelines applied, Gallagher said.

Roughly two thirds of the project is installed or funded after Monday’s action, she said. 

In other business Monday, the council recognized Stonewall Columbus’ 38 years of service to the LGBTQ community. The organization was founded in June 1981 to commemorate the anniversary of a 1969 police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village gay bar, which sparked riots in New York City where police clashed with gay-rights activists.

Last Thursday, the New York City Police Department apologized for that raid for the first time.

In a ceremony outside Columbus City Hall after the council meeting, the city awarded the 2019 Steven Shellabarger Illuminator Award to Columbus resident Andrew Levitt for outstanding activism promoting LGBTQ rights. Levitt has performed in drag in central Ohio for 18 years, raising over $2 million for charity, much of it through the Nina West Foundation, named for his drag queen persona. 

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