MINNEAPOLIS - New technology has shortened commuters' drive time in downtown Minneapolis, according to city officials.
The city recently upgraded the Traffic Management Center where it will soon have the capability of monitoring every traffic light remotely -- 800 in all.
"I can literally sit at home, which I've done, where an issue has come up," said Nick VanGunst. "Somebody says we need a little more time here. I can remote in and I can change that and within a couple minutes it has the time it needs."
VanGunst is managing an effort for the city that is drastically improving the technology of the city's traffic lights. It's a project that is costing $11.2 million. The city says 80 percent is covered by a federal grant with the city, county and state picking up the rest of the cost.
The city is in the process of re-timing all of its traffic lights. Officials say wait times have dropped several minutes in some spots. The greatest impact maybe on Washington Avenue.
"We measured from sixth avenue north to the 35 ramp going east bound in the P-M. We're seeing about a 25 percent reduction in wait time, so about seven minutes," said VanGunst.
He believes on average there could be a 10 percent reduction throughout the city.
This technology may not just be helping drivers, but once it's synced with metro transit, it potentially could help commuters who take the bus.
"The controller recognizes the bus is behind schedule and it would extend that green time for a little bit longer at least to get through that intersection," he said.
Most of the commuters KARE 11 spoke with Tuesday afternoon have noticed a difference.
"I think the last couple weeks down here it's been better," said Melanie Ueland who says Washington Avenue near I-35 is usually backed up several blocks.
Yet other commuters haven't noticed a difference.
"That's kind of a stretch I think, depends on the day, the weather," said Steve who wasn't sure about the decreased wait time.
The city pretty has almost completed installation of the new traffic light technology in downtown Minneapolis. The south side will go next, followed by the north side.
VanGunst tells KARE 11 the city was originally going to start on the north side but bridge construction in the area altered their plans.
"Generally speaking, we're trying to eliminate the stop, stop, stop at every signal," he said.