Petrochemical giant funds Louisiana’s first adaptive traffic signal system


The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) has implemented the first adaptive traffic signal system in the state due to a partnership with the South Africa-based petrochemicals company Sasol, which is building a ‘world-scale’ mega-project in the Lake Charles region.

Sasol is building a US$11bn ethane cracker and derivatives plant on a 4.75-square mile site near the City of Westlake in Calcasieu Parish. The new adaptive system will help manage traffic resulting from construction of the petrochemical facility, as well as other industrial activity in the area, and consists of six connected signals along the State Route 378 corridor.

Communications are collected on a server at DOTD that runs algorithms to determine the amount of green time needed for each approach at each intersection, as well as the amount of time required to keep progression through the intersections. The new timings are instantly uploaded back to the signal controllers and are run with the next light cycle, continually reassessing the situation and adapting to actual demand.

Sasol funded Louisiana design and engineering teams, Intelligent Transportation Systems LLC and CH Fenstermaker & Associates to implement the system, and also paid for all the equipment, construction and interface. Sasol also coordinated the effort with DOTD, the Governor’s Office of Technology Services, and the design team.

The US$1.2m system is only one part of the roadway improvements Sasol has made in the Westlake area. In addition to DOTD, Sasol partnered with the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury and the City of Westlake to improve several other intersections with traffic signals, turn lanes, signage and striping, an investment of about US$40m in local infrastructure improvements.

“The system adjusts the traffic signal timings based on actual traffic demand and helps reduce the amount of congestion. It enhances safety, reduces delays, and shortens travel times, for drivers, and it’s something we would like to see implemented in many other areas across the state,” said Dr Shawn D Wilson, secretary of the Louisiana DOTD.

“This adaptive traffic signal system is a technologically advanced traffic control configuration that will be beneficial to the traveling public who utilize this corridor.”

Mike Thomas, SVP of Sasol North American Operations, commented, “We recognize that construction of our project is generating additional traffic in the area, and since the beginning, we have been committed to working with local stakeholders to implement mitigation strategies. We are proud to have been part of implementing this technology for the first time in Louisiana.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).