Traffic jams don't stop just because they reach a city's border, yet efforts to improve traffic flow on roads that cross cities haven't always been in sync. So King County's Department...

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Traffic jams don’t stop just because they reach a city’s border, yet efforts to improve traffic flow on roads that cross cities haven’t always been in sync.

So King County’s Department of Transportation is teaming with various communities to synchronize traffic lights and add monitoring equipment aimed at easing commutes that span multiple jurisdictions.

The county and cities will install video cameras, sensors and other devices at key intersections to provide commuters with online traffic updates. The data also will help engineers adjust stoplight patterns to move cars, trucks and buses more efficiently.

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Certain lanes will be designated as changeable, to add more capacity in either direction during peak times, said Norton Posey, a county traffic-systems engineer.

Similar strategies, known collectively as Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), are being used by cities throughout the Puget Sound region, including Seattle, Bellevue and Issaquah. But the benefit to motorists often doesn’t extend along their entire journey, Posey said.

“This breaks jurisdictional boundaries,” Posey said.

After four years of planning, the first of a series of ITS projects is expected to be completed in February along a 2.6-mile section of Northeast 124th Street, a jammed route that runs east from Kirkland, touches Redmond and rolls on through unincorporated King County.

Upcoming King County projects

All aim to use technology to ease congestion.

South 277th Street
between West Valley Highway and 55th Avenue South, a partnership with Kent and Auburn and the state Department of Transportation.

Avondale Road
between Highway 520 and Novelty Hill Road, and Novelty Hill Road between Avondale and 208th Avenue Northeast, partnerships with Redmond and the state Department of Transportation.

140th Avenue Southeast
between Highway 169 and Petrovitsky Road.

Source: King County Department of Transportation

Ten signals will be coordinated between 100th Avenue Northeast in Kirkland and Highway 202 near Redmond.

The federal government will chip in about $2.3 million of the overall $2.9 million cost, Posey said.

County data show that synchronizing signals and other changes reduce travel time and fuel consumption.

An additional $1.5 million in federal money will be used to plan more systems in the region and to move forward on three other projects being designed.

The three include crowded stretches of road that touch Kent, Auburn and Redmond.

The county expects to receive an additional $2 million from the federal government in 2005 for similar projects.

Karen Gaudette: 206-515-5618