Public Works

What’s the deal with the signal timing on University?

By Troy Rother, City Traffic Engineer

Few things are more frustrating than being stuck in seemingly endless traffic.

If you’ve driven down University Drive in Northgate in the last couple of weeks, you’ve probably faced extraordinarily long wait times. A soon as you go through a green light, the next light turns red. At times, it takes 15 or 20 minutes to travel a single mile.

Let me assure you, we share your frustration and apologize deeply for the inconvenience.

Allow me to explain what’s behind all the chaos. It won’t ease your frustration, but at least you’ll know what’s going on.

Our contractor activated the reconstructed Northgate traffic signals on Aug. 22. Regrettably, the signal contractor didn’t have his subcontractors present for the activation as the city had directed. As a result, the detection systems didn’t function properly, which caused the traffic signal to give the maximum green time for all approaches — even if a vehicle wasn’t present on that approach.

Rest assured we’re working diligently with the subcontractors to correct the problem. We’ve developed coordinated timing plans for the corridor and are installing them this week. We’re also working on camera activation, emergency vehicle recognition, and getting the signals to talk to one another.

That said, it’s essential to keep in mind that the focus of the entire project is pedestrian safety in an area bustling with thousands of students. Recent pedestrian accidents in the area – including several tragic fatalities – led the city to work with the university and the Texas Department of Transportation to make necessary changes.

The good news is that we expect to have the final timings installed the week of Sept. 9. The complex project was supposed to be finished months ago, but weather and utility conflicts created numerous delays.

When fully implemented, the signal timings will have an exclusive pedestrian-only phase for walking and cycling traffic to cross University Drive or the minor roadway at the intersection. During this time, all vehicular traffic will be stopped, including right-turning vehicles.

The pedestrian-only phase will undoubtedly create delays for motorists, but benefits include a safer situation for pedestrians and no pedestrian conflicts for vehicles attempting to turn onto University Drive. For example, we observed traffic at the Nagle intersection this week and saw 12 vehicles turning left onto University instead of the usual four because the vehicles didn’t have to wait for pedestrians to cross during motorists’ green light.

Our overriding goal will always be to operate and maintain a safe and efficient transportation system. Unfortunately, the complexities involved sometimes create frustrations and inconveniences for us all. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

 


About the Blogger

Troy Rother has been College Station’s city traffic engineer since 2003. He previously served as an engineer with the Texas Department of Transportation and in the private sector with Wilbur Smith Associates. Troy earned bachelor’s (1997) and master’s (1998) degrees in civil engineering from Texas A&M.


 

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Don’t mistake our street signs for souvenirs

By Lee Robinson, Traffic Systems Division Manager

Most people know traffic and street signs are vital to not only find your way around but to keep you and your family safe. Unfortunately, some folks seem to think those bright, reflective signs are better suited for trophies, souvenirs, or apartment decorations.

Several years ago, stop signs were the favored target, but street signs are more popular these days, especially those with common themes. In 2018, the most popular signs for thieves were from the same neighborhood west of the Wellborn-Rock Prairie intersection:

1. Papa Bear (stolen 6 times)

2. Momma Bear (5)

3. Goldilocks, Baby Bear, and Airborne (tied at 4)

The city’s Traffic Operations Division uses the latest in tamper-proof hardware to secure our signs, but resourceful thieves always seem to find a way to steal them anyway, sometimes taking the entire sign post assembly with cutting torches or smooth-cut power saws.

In 2018, we had 141 signs reported as missing or stolen. That’s down a bit from past years, but’s it’s still too many. The cost of replacing each sign averages about $200 and can be as much as $275, depending on the situation. That means last year’s price tag for replacing missing signs totaled more than $28,000.

The cost of the sign and hardware itself is just the start. We also have to factor in the staff time required to go to the location, assess what’s needed, repair any site damage, and install the new sign. In some cases, we can’t put the new sign in the original spot. When that happens, state and federal laws require us to call 811 to locate utility lines before digging elsewhere, a process that creates a delay of 2-3 days.

We maintain more than 15,000 traffic and street signs in our system, so we have plenty to do without replacing those that end up on apartment walls. If you thinking taking a sign isn’t a big deal, think again.

It’s against the law, and if you have one, you’ll be prosecuted.

 


About the Blogger

Traffic Systems Division Manager Lee Robinson is in his 36th year with the City of College Station.


 

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Public Works’ new truck engineered to save lives

 

By Wally Urrutia, Solid Waste Division Manager

Working on and around roadways and heavy trucks has always been a hazardous job. Thankfully, as technology evolves, our equipment is becoming safer.

The Public Works Department’s new attenuator truck is designed to save lives and lessen the risk of injury in work zones. The mounted device — also known as a crash cushion — absorbs the kinetic injury created by colliding vehicles, reducing the damage to vehicles and the injuries to motorists and workers.

Here’s a closer look at how it works:

The attenuator has become a necessary safety device for highway work zones across the country and will be shared by all divisions in our department.

Since our workers don’t have a giant, friendly Transformer to protect them from harm, we now have the next best thing.

 


About the Blogger

Solid Waste Division Manager Wally Urrutia is in his 32nd year with the City of College Station. He was named Solid Waste Manager of the Year in 2016 by the Texas Public Works Association.


 

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Public works boosts our quality of life

By Wally Urrutia, Solid Waste Division Manager

Most of us take for granted that our trash will be picked up on time, our drinking water will be clean, and our public facilities will be adequately maintained. But College Station’s public works infrastructure, facilities, and services wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated professionals of the Public Works Department.

Efficient and professional public works programs manage our water, sewer, streets, traffic operations, stormwater drainage, fleet maintenance, public building maintenance, recycling, and solid waste collection. These services are vital to the safety, health, and high quality of life we enjoy in our growing community.

This week marks the 59th annual National Public Works Week, which celebrates the thousands of men and women across the United States and Canada who provide and maintain the infrastructure and services known as public works. This year’s theme is “It Starts Here,” which represents the many facets of modern civilization that grow out of the efforts of the public works professionals.

What starts here? Infrastructure, growth, innovation, mobility, security, and healthy communities are all significant aspects, but the bottom line is that our citizens’ quality of life starts with public works.

National Accreditation

Did you know that College Station is the only city of our size (80,000-150,000 population) in Texas to be nationally accredited in both Public Works and Water Services? Administered by the American Public Works Association (APWA), the accreditation program recognizes agencies that go beyond the requirements of established industry practices.

The College Station Public Works Department consists of eight divisions — Capital Projects, Facility Maintenance, Streets Maintenance, Drainage Maintenance, Traffic Operations, Sanitation, Fleet Services, and Administration. Our 130 employees deliver sanitation services and plan, build, and maintain the infrastructure that allows our community to grow and prosper.

About Public Works Week

Since 1960, the APWA has sponsored National Public Works Week as a way for its 30,000 members to educate the public on the importance of public works in their daily lives. The occasion is marked each year with scores of resolutions and proclamations from mayors, governors, and presidents.

As we observe National Public Works Week, we honor and thank the employees of our Public Works and Water Services departments for their professionalism, hard work and the high level of dedicated service they provide to our community every day.

Mayor Karl Mooney proclaimed this Public Works Week in College Station at the May 13 city council meeting:

 


About the Blogger

Solid Waste Division Manager Wally Urrutia is in his 32nd year with the City of College Station. He was named Solid Waste Manager of the Year in 2016 by the Texas Public Works Association.


 

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University Drive pedestrian upgrades near completion

By Troy Rother, City Traffic Engineer

Early last year, the city began constructing sidewalks, medians and traffic signals to improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers on University Drive along the Texas A&M campus. The project was inconvenient and frustrating, but it was necessary for an area that continues to grow and expand.

When the project is finished early this summer, you’ll need to pay close attention to what’s changed about pedestrian and vehicle movement. The physical improvements include:

  • Medians on University Drive to create refuge areas for pedestrians at intersections.
  • New traffic signals that improve pedestrian flow across the roadway.
  • Shared-use paths to accommodate more pedestrians and bike users.
  • Repaved traffic lanes and new landscaping.

Figure 1

We’ll also deploy an upgraded new traffic signal operation plan to take advantage of the latest technology and provide added green time where needed. The new timing plan creates a pedestrian-only signal phase, stopping vehicles long enough to allow pedestrians sufficient time to cross safely. Since vehicles can no longer make left or right turns into your crosswalk, they will be stopped while you cross the street.

The signal will allow traffic to move on University, then the intersecting street will be allowed to go (Figure 1), followed by the pedestrian-only phase (Figure 2). Drivers with a green light won’t have to wait for the crosswalk to clear before they can go.

Figure 2

For example, under current operations, drivers turning left from Nagle Street onto University must wait for a break in the steady stream of pedestrians crossing near the Mitchell Physics Building. Typical signal timings allow vehicles to move in the same direction as pedestrians, but the large number of pedestrians crossing University at that intersection limits the number of left-turning vehicles to about four per cycle. The new phasing will let more cars turn left with the same amount of green signal time because they don’t have to wait for the pedestrians.

Figure 3 shows the usual signal operation at an intersection where pedestrians (the yellow arrows) cross with parallel vehicular movement (the black arrows).  Notice the conflict points where the yellow and black arrows cross? That is the point where the vehicular traffic must yield to the pedestrians, which slows down traffic and leads walkers to worry about drivers yielding.

Figure 3

No one wins in that situation.

The separate pedestrian phase creates some delay for vehicles on University, increasing the average travel time from Wellborn Road to South College Avenue by about one minute.

But it’ll still be faster than what it’s been during construction.

Gig ‘em!

 


About the Blogger

Troy Rother is in his 16th year as the city’s traffic engineer. He previously served two years as a transportation engineer with the Texas Department of Transportation and two years with Wilbert Smith Associates. Troy earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Texas A&M and is a member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the American Society of Civil Engineers.


 

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New sanitation schedules and rates start in July

By Heather Woolwine, Recycling & Environmental Compliance Manager

College Station’s continued growth has led to significant changes to the city’s sanitation and recycling collection schedules, as well as the first increase in sanitation rates since 2006. The changes all go into effect in July.

The new schedule will reduce the number of missed collections that frequently occur when residents place their trash and recycling bins too close to each other or another obstruction. When that happens, our drivers can’t empty the bins safely or efficiently.

Your recycling day will change, while your trash and brush/bulky day may change. Go to the following link to identify the collection days for your neighborhood:

Solid Waste Collection Rates

No one likes to pay more for anything, but no business can operate efficiently if its revenues don’t keep up with costs.  It’s been 12 years since the last adjustment in residential solid waste collection fees, and the old rates no longer recover the cost of providing the outstanding level of service you’ve come to expect.

Our population today is about 118,000, almost 50 percent more than in 2006 when we had just under 79,000 residents. The new rates remain competitive with other Texas cities our size.

The new residential rate, which was approved by the city council on June 14, is rising from $14.40 to $16.00 per month. Beginning in October 2019, the rate will be indexed to the annual change in the consumer price index, which measures inflation.

Go to the following link for a detailed breakdown of the new residential and commercial collection fees:

Here are some helpful reminders regarding trash and recycling collection:

Bin Placement

Garbage and recycling containers must be placed at the curb in front of your residence before 8 a.m. on your designated collection day. Remember to place the bins with both wheels pointed toward the curb, and the lids should be closed at all times.

Because our sanitation and recycling trucks use an automated arm to lift and empty the bins, don’t place your containers closer than four feet from an obstruction that would prevent collection, such as other containers, mailboxes, cars or trees. Other obstructions that can result in your bin not being emptied include placing it under low-hanging tree limbs, cables, or electrical wires, or close to water or gas meters.

City ordinance requires you to remove your garbage and recycling containers from the curb within 12 hours of collection.

Trash Collection

Garbage should be bagged, tied and securely stored in your container. If you pile bags or trash on top or around your container, the sanitation truck’s automated arm won’t be able to collect it. Items too large to fit in your garbage container should be neatly placed on the curb for bulk collection.

Brush and Bulk Collection

Bulk collection is for items too big to fit in your garbage container, such as furniture, non-Freon containing household appliances, etc. It does not include bags of household garbage.

Please consider donating your gently used items before placing them on the curb. Some non-profit organizations will even come to your house to pick them up.

Brush collection includes tree limbs, shrubs, and herbaceous or woody plants and vines. Brush should be cut into a maximum of 8-foot lengths. Brush and bulk items should be divided into separate piles and neatly stacked within three feet of the curb in front of your home.

Recyclables

Citizens with blue, single-stream recycling containers collected by Brazos Valley Recycling are encouraged to review the list of acceptable items printed on top of each container. Only clean items should be put in the container, and anything not on the list should be put in the garbage instead.

Shredded paper is the only recyclable that should be placed in clear plastic bags. Bagging other items isn’t necessary and could cause significant and costly damage to the sorting equipment.

MyWaste App        

Don’t forget to download our free MyWaste app from your favorite app store. It’s the easiest way to keep up with your collection schedule and receive updates from the Sanitation Department.

For more information, contact me at hwoolwine@cstx.gov.

 


About the Blogger

Heather Woolwine has been with the City of College Station for 13 years and has been recycling and environmental compliance manager since 2014. She served as the city’s recycling coordinator from 2007-14. Heather attended the Environmental Training Institute at the University of Texas-Arlington and is licensed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.


 

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