Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania is one of the most accessible areas in Pennsylvania. It is situated at the intersecting point of Route 19 (Perry Highway) and Freedom Road (continues as Route 228 to the East of Route 19) – one of Western Pennsylvania’s busiest intersecting corridors. A freeway-centric intersection that provides access to both Interstates 76 (Pennsylvania Turnpike) and 79, the Freedom Road/Route 19 intersection (located directly between I-76 and I-79) sees as many as 100,000 vehicles each weekday.
Cranberry Township saw a rise in population from 1,000 residents in its 25 square mile area in 1950 to more than 28,000 today, including a population growth rate near 60 percent since 1990. This, among other Cranberry Township programs and amenities, is largely attributed to the 1989 opening of Interstate 279 north, which cut travel time between the Township and Pittsburgh from approximately 60 minutes to around 30 minutes. Already serving as the intersection point for I-76 and I-79, and Routes 19 and 228, Cranberry Township is one of the most accessible municipalities in the region. Its roadways serve as a Regional Network for neighboring communities allowing access to the region’s major arterials. In 2010, Westinghouse Electric Company LLC completed its world headquarters move to Cranberry Township. Expected to create 2,000 jobs in the area, the Westinghouse headquarters relocation to the Township actually created 5,000 jobs. This culmination of growth pressures placed a heavy urban-level traffic burden on the area’s bucolic and pastoral country roads.
Weekday evening commutes through Route 19 and Freedom Rd./228 corridors created the most congestion. Average delays exceeded 13 minutes with a 200+ percent increase in stops per vehicle (compared to weekend travel times). This compounded with left-turn cycle failures (whereby a vehicle waits through an entire green phase without passing through the intersection), which caused blocking and traffic spillback problems during morning and evening commutes. An ITS solution was needed.
Cranberry Township and Butler County Community Development officials, including partners in PennDOT District 10 collaborated to address long-term goals – a 15 to 20 year program that anticipates a population of 50,000 by 2030 – with an investment in an ITS program to increase mobility. By deploying a comprehensive ITS solution, which included a centrally-based Centracs ATMS, video, LED signals, as well as a more robust fiber optic Ethernet communications network, the Township was able to interconnect 27 out of 52 area signals (39 operated by Cranberry Township) across the four municipalities with a plan to interconnect 34 by early 2011. This is up from a mere nine signals Cranberry Township operated in 1996, and only four traffic signal zones until 2010 when the new ITS system was deployed.
Preliminary results of the new ITS system and signal timing strategy indicate a two-minute decrease in travel time per vehicle. Multiplying this travel time decrease by the 100,000-vehicle volume that these corridors see each day, the improvement is substantial. Comprehensive post project travel time studies are currently underway, but it is projected to yield at least a 16 percent improvement in travel times, and as much as a 28 percent reduction in delays.
As a result of deploying Centracs, Cranberry Township has been able to improve the overall quality of life for the region through less traffic congestion, vehicle emissions, and travel time delays while increasing roadway safety and productivity. Moreover, the reduction of vehicle stops, emergency response times, and congestion have helped to restore some of the small town feel that was much of the Township’s character many years ago.
This project is an excellent example of how ITS systems can be leveraged and successfully deployed despite the limitations associated with roadway capacity construction, agency size, jurisdictions, and fiscal budgets. The approach to coordinating and working with multiple agencies to invest in and leverage Centracs to establish an ITS solution serves as an excellent model for interagency cooperation to benefit the larger community.