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Video sensors run Grangeville signals; state project at end

One of four sensor cameras mounted at Grangeville’s Main and Idaho streets intersection. These monitor zones to switch new LED traffic signals installed as part of ITD’s Main Street/State Highway 13 project.

Photo by David Rauzi
One of four sensor cameras mounted at Grangeville’s Main and Idaho streets intersection. These monitor zones to switch new LED traffic signals installed as part of ITD’s Main Street/State Highway 13 project.


A crew member with Thorco of Coeur d’Alene aligns a new signal light on Grangeville’s Main Street last Wednesday, Aug 10.

— What’s up with those cameras at Grangeville’s stoplights?

Equipment upgrades at the Main and Idaho streets intersection propose to make for more responsive signal changes and better assist road-crossing pedestrians. Four sensor cameras, using a combination of video and radar, monitor zones for traffic, while a fifth closed-circuit TV camera runs 24-7 to allow the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) to remotely check the area for signal or traffic/road conditions problems.

What it isn’t, clarified Dale Moore, ITD traffic signal electrician foreman, Lewiston, is a red light camera for ticketing motorists – “It can’t be used for that,” he said – nor will any of the cameras be recording traffic video.

“Basically it’s for driver safety,” Moore said. “It’s not to spy.”

Work at the intersection is 90 percent complete with road signage the last component to add to ITD’s $2.3 million project that included resurfacing Grangeville’s Main Street/State Highway 13 and repaving a portion of adjacent U.S. Highway 95. Work began by contractor Knife River on U.S. 95 July 6, and Main Street was started on a week later. Project manager Janet Zarate said motorists may experience minor disruptions as crews raise Main Street manholes and water valves to make them flush with the repaving.

“And then we’ll be out of everybody’s hair,” she said.

Switching to cameras from sensor coils embedded within the asphalt will allow for more versatile signal switching, according to Moore.

The coils were beginning to fail due to asphalt deterioration, and their positioning was static so they would not always catch vehicles if they diverted in the lane due to ice or snow. Also, the intersection was essentially monitored in two lanes with the other two switched on a time clock. Now, a camera monitors each approach lane up to several hundred feet, and those zone parameters can be modified in size remotely, in real time, from ITD’s Lewiston office.

The 360-degree pan-zoom-tilt CCTV camera, Moore explained, will allow ITD to remotely view the intersection to confirm equipment problems, adjust zone parameters, and as well change switch times in the event of planned (school or community functions) or unplanned (adverse weather or road incident) traffic problems.

“Also, the Idaho State Police and state communications in Coeur d’Alene can view this,” he said, “but it doesn’t record. This is just for incident management.” He continued they have strict criteria on what they can and can’t view. For example: “We don’t look in cars, we don’t look at license plates and we don’t look in windows,” he said. And having three state agencies able to view this helps, he continued, oversee that viewing criteria is upheld.

Intersection changes will also include new signal lights; the same 12-inch diameter as before, but more-efficient LEDs that should reduce maintenance and utility costs, according to Moore, and these will be seen better by motorists than the prior incandescents. New pedestrian signals feature a single box that includes a countdown for the impending signal change, and it includes voice commands on when to cross to assist people, including with sight disabilities.

Overall, both motorists and pedestrians should see better response times in signal switching as a result of these changes, according to Moore. Signal work was handled by Thorco of Coeur d’Alene.

As with all technology, according to Moore, there will be some bugs to be worked out for a time until the system operates as intended.

“So we’ll appreciate their patience,” he said.


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