Austin Transportation Department to hire 13 traffic signal timers

Traffic signal operator grid (KXAN Photo)
Traffic signal operator grid (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As part of the Austin City Council approved $3.7 billion budget, you could see some relief on the cities congested roads. $1.3 million of the budget is going toward the Austin Transportation Department to help hire 13 new people, most of which will be dedicated to traffic signal timing.

Brittany Vance moved to Austin just three weeks ago from Idaho. “I’m definitely not used to this standstill traffic,” she said.

She’s already noticing what many Austinites have been dealing with for years.

“We sat at that light near I-35 and Riverside for like 15 minutes, which was totally unheard of for me,” Vance said.

Now, a little help is on the way. Wednesday, Council gave the Transportation Department the green light and approved the funds for the 13 new positions including 3 signal techs and 2 arterial management engineers. Other positions will help with strategic planning, traffic impact studies, and project coordinating.

“We’re very fortunate to have the new positions and we will fill those as fast as we can because there’s so many transportation needs here in Austin,” said Assistant Director of the Austin Transportation Department Jim Dale.

The national recommendation is one signal engineer for every 200 signals, but Austin has only 4 engineers responsible for more than 1,000 traffic signals in the city. Right now, the Transportation Department is testing and re-timing more than 230 signals, reducing travel times by 15 percent. Dale says thanks to the extra employees, next year you could be getting to work even faster.

“What that will let us do is increase our number of signals we re-time each year by more than 100 additional signals,” Dale said.

But more green time for one person, means more red time for another. Dale says it’s the timers job to find the balance and make sure people can get where they need to go while still staying safe.

The transportation department’s user fees, which both residents and businesses pay, are going up 50 cents. The 13 new hires, however, are not included in that increase. The positions are absorbed by the department’s current operating budget.

If you want to report a signal problem, call 311.

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