AMERICAN CANYON — American Canyon Public Works Director Jason Holley doesn’t officially start his new job full-time until Dec. 1, but his report at Tuesday’s City Council meeting suggested he’s hitting the ground running.
In an update of the city’s Signal Interconnect Project, Holley, currently the city’s part-time interim director, told council members that improvements to help relieve Highway 29 traffic congestion could be implemented as soon as February or March.
According to the project research, a typical weekday evening ride southbound through American Canyon from Napa Junction Road takes close to 12 minutes, with an average speed of 24 mph, Holley said.
If the signal lights at five major highway intersections can be made to operate in harmony, that time could be cut nearly in half and the average speed boosted to 30 mph, Holley said.
Coordinated signals would move cars through the city in “platoons,” according to Holley.
The research involved counting cars as well as driving around the city and timing routes and signals with a stopwatch, Holley said.
The primary focus of the synchronized timing will be morning and evening commutes, with individual plans for each, Holley said.
Synchronizing the signal lights won’t require additional funding, Holley said, and could start as early as next spring.
Holley said he didn’t expect to have problems working with Caltrans, the highway’s owner. State transportation officials are interested in improving conditions in American Canyon, according to Holley. “Highway 29 is important to them,” he said.
Holly emphasized that all these efforts would result in improvement, not a fix. Council members gave Holley’s efforts the green light.
“By all means, give (synchronization) a shot,” said Mayor Leon Garcia.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Councilmember Belia Ramos Bennett, regarding traffic congestion improvements. Ramos Bennett said she and other council members have had preliminary discussions with the Napa Valley Unified School District about changing starting times at American Canyon schools. A start time change might result in spreading out traffic and easing congestion, Ramos Bennett said.
“That’s a phenomenal idea,” Holley said.
In addition to synchronizing traffic signal timing, Holley recommended changes at the Donaldson Way East/Highway 29 intersection, including eliminating five on-street parking spaces, reconfiguring lanes, adding a right-turn lane and adding signs and striping, among other modifications.
Those changes would cost up to $250,000, Holley said, and require a Caltrans permit. The city currently has no funds to pay for those changes.
The synchronization project received initial funding last year with a $25, 000 federal grant from the Transportation Fund for Clean Air. The long-term goal is to coordinate signal timing at nine intersections located along Highway 29, and on American Canyon Road and Flosden Road. An increase of average speed reduces automobile emissions and results in cleaner air. The project is one of the City Council’s priorities for 2013-14.
The next steps are to refine the details of the timing plans and coordinate with Caltrans, Holley said. After the timing changes are implemented, engineers must monitor the results and make any necessary adjustments, Holley said.