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Highway 99W construction improves traffic flow by 60 percent

Commuters along Tigard's Pacific Highway have no doubt noticed it: Traffic is a lot better.

Construction on the long-congested road is nearing completion and more changes are expected to come.

The road, which sees more than 50,000 cars on an average day, has been under construction between Greenburg Road and Highway 217 for the last year as contractors added extra lanes and redesigned side streets and intersections. Preliminary studies of the road have already yielded results.

According to senior project engineer Mike McCarthy, the changes make up a 60 percent improvement in traffic flow.

'Most people are getting through on the first cycle of the traffic signal,' McCarthy told the Tigard City Council March 22. 'That is pretty amazing.'

Crews still have a few small steps left in the process. Permanent striping will be added when the weather warms up, but the difference in travel time from Highway 217 to King City is substantial, McCarthy said.

'It's a couple of minutes faster per vehicle. When we multiply that by 50,000 cars and 365 days a year you are well into millions of minutes saved.'

The intersections of Greenburg Road and Hall Boulevard were also some of the most dangerous, McCarthy said, but so far there have been few traffic collisions.

McCarthy called the improvements in the road 'mind boggling.'Additional changes to Pacific Highway are coming.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is working to install technology improvements on the 21 traffic signals along the highway and will install new software for the traffic signals.

The improved signals will be coordinated based on actual traffic flow instead of fixed timers.

ODOT officials will be working on various timing configurations during the next few weeks and commuters may experience changes in traffic signal lengths from day to day until engineers can find one that works best.

The new controller software will be able to adjust to real-time traffic changes as they happen,, and should be operational in the next few months.

'The technology we have in some of our traffic signals now is 20 years old,' he said. 'When you think what computers could do 20 years ago and what they can do now, you can see the benefits of updating them.'