When the last 52 traffic signals are hooked up to an electronic network based in City Hall next May, Santa Ana will become the first Orange County city to have a fully computerized traffic control system.
The City Council approved a $500,000 contract with an Ontario-based firm to complete the final phase of a project begun in 1980 to coordinate the city's 202 signals with traffic flow. The computer system helps to avoid long waits at red lights if there is no cross-traffic and turns on "walk" signs at the request of pedestrians.
David Grosse, executive director of public services, said automobile congestion is increasing in Santa Ana by an estimated 10% each year. He said the computerized traffic system is a less-expensive alternative to costly road-widening construction.
The first phase of the computerization, funded primarily with Federal Highway Administration grants, begun in 1980 with the linking of signals in the downtown area, followed by a second phase hooking up the city's major arterial streets. Grosse said there has been a reduction in traffic accident rates under the program (from 5,722 crashes in 1982 to 5,437 in 1984, with a 1% decrease so far this year). Grosse added that according to a study, an estimated 50,000 gallons of gasoline are saved by improving the traffic flow.
Partially computerized traffic systems are operating in other Orange County cities, including Garden Grove, Orange and Irvine. Garden Grove's system, for example, now covers about 70% of the signals, and officials plan to eventually make the system fully operational, said spokesman Ron Dreiman.