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.