Police can manually control traffic lights

Published 4:26 pm Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Clanton Police Capt. Freeman Ellison demonstrates how new traffic light controls work at the intersection of U.S. 31 and Fourth Avenue.

When a tanker carrying diesel fuel overturned on Interstate 65 back on May 20, traffic in Clanton backed up for miles and hours into the night.

Clanton Police hope new controls at three traffic lights along U.S. 31 will help ease congestion for something similar in the future.

The Alabama Department of Transportation recently installed controls at three intersections that let officers manually operate traffic lights.

While the controls won’t eliminate traffic back-ups, especially in cases like when the Interstate was shut down back in May, they will help improve traffic flow, Clanton Capt. Freeman Ellison said.

Officers used the equipment to operate the traffic light at Ollie Avenue and U.S. 31 on Friday night as many left the Peach Jam Jubilee at the same time during a heavy thunderstorm.

“It works,” said Ellison. “Friday on Ollie Avenue, traffic was flowing (back to normal) in 20 minutes.”

The controls were also added where U.S. 31, or Seventh Street, intersects with Fourth Avenue and Jackson Avenue.

The equipment allows officers to cycle through the lights from a remote. The lights can also be changed to flashing lights, if officers wanted to make an intersection a two- or four-way stop for an extended period of time.

The state installed the equipment about two weeks ago after city leaders and Police Chief Brian Stilwell asked for help to solve traffic problems along U.S. 31.

The controls have added benefit for officers because they can now direct traffic from the sidewalk or their cars, much safer than being out in the street, Ellison said.

The equipment will only be used as needed, when it’s likely to ease traffic congestion following accidents, road closings, events in downtown Clanton and similar events.

“It may not solve the problems completely, but it will be a big help,” Ellison said.