Office of Mayor William Peduto
Mayor William Peduto Lauds City's Cutting Edge Leadership on Real-time Traffic Signal Program
Joins Council members Gilman and Gross, Carnegie Mellon & foundation officials on technology coming next to Baum-Centre corridor

PITTSBURGH, PA - (May 1, 2014) New traffic signal technology is coming to the city’s Baum-Centre corridor that extends Pittsburgh’s leadership in commuter, pedestrian and environmentally friendly traffic research, Mayor William Peduto announced today.

Working with Carnegie Mellon’s University Transportation Center, Traffic21 and partners in the local foundation community, the city is extending its cutting-edge system of real-time traffic signals that adapt instantly to shifting traffic conditions. A new $1.8 million pilot project will further test and strengthen the Pittsburgh system, providing first-of-its-kind smart traffic technology from the city’s eastern edge to nearly Downtown.

An existing UTC traffic signal project at 18 intersections in East Liberty and Shadyside has cut vehicle wait times by 42%, travel times by 24% and vehicle emissions by 21%. The project will soon be expanded to another 23 intersections along Baum Boulevard and Centre Avenue going west to Craig Street.

The UTC and its Traffic21 project call the it the Scalable Urban Traffic Control system, or Surtrac.

Prior adaptive signal technologies typically focused on straight-ahead traffic flows common to suburban areas. Surtrac dynamically senses the constantly shifting crossflows of traffic that dominate urban areas, and adjusts green lights on a second by second basis to adjust to changes, whether from car breakdowns or accidents, or bursts in traffic from special events or street closures.

It is totally decentralized. Each intersection manages its own local traffic and neighboring intersections communicate their plans to each other achieve coordinated behavior.

Soon the system will extend from the city limits at Penn and Braddock avenues in Point Breeze through Larimer,  East Liberty, Friendship, Bloomfield, Shadyside, and Oakland to Baum Blvd at Craig Street and Bigelow Boulevard, the start of a main entryway to Downtown.

“Pittsburgh uses its quirks -- in this case a tight urban street grid packed with pedestrians, bikes and commuters -- to make itself great. We don’t have the resources to widen roads or buy up properties to solve our traffic issues -- we use brainpower to create efficiency instead,” Mayor Peduto said.

“What also makes Pittsburgh special is the way government works alongside university and private partners to make splashes, such as with this project, that get noticed on the world stage. This is a proud moment for CMU and our city.”

The Mayor was joined at a press conference in the Baum-Centre corridor by City Council members Dan Gilman and Deb Gross, and University Transportation Center (UTC) executive director Allen Biehler.

“The Baum-Centre corridor serves as a critical gateway to Oakland, Shadyside, Bloomfield, Friendship, and East Liberty. This project will not only improve traffic between these neighborhoods, but will also improve the health of residents and visitors by reducing vehicle emissions by over 20%,” Councilman Gilman said.

"This project will make the lives of District 7 residents and commuters safer and more efficient, and is yet another example of District 7 serving as one of our city's centers of innovation and exploration,” said Councilwoman Gross. “I couldn't be more excited to welcome these traffic infrastructure improvements to the Baum-Center corridor and District 7, and hope that this project will serve as a helpful research blueprint for these improvements be made citywide in the future."

The UTC is working next on efforts to optimize pedestrian and transit traffic flow: more walkers and greater use of buses and other transit options will make cuts to vehicle traffic and emissions even greater.

“This is smart technology that makes the whole traffic system work better and improves air quality, and now allows us to turn our attention to the next steps,” Biehler said.

The project is underwritten by UPMC, the Hillman Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and the R.K. Mellon Foundation, as well as the city, U.S. Department of Transportation and PennDOT. The foundations are funding $1,298,000 of the work and government bodies $512,000.

Installation of the system is scheduled from mid-June through the end of the year, and be operational in early 2015.

The latest phase of this project began when the city of Pittsburgh applied to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) Regional Traffic Signal Program for help in better synchronizing the signals along the Baum-Centre corridor between Craig Street and Penn Circle West (now renamed Euclid Avenue). That allowed for upgrades including new controllers and cabinets, new radio communications, some new signal indications, and signal retiming using US DOT Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) funds.

The UTC and Traffic21 project at CMU were already running Surtrac at intersections in East Liberty and Shadyside and approached the SPC, the city, and PennDOT about extending that project westward. But since the Baum-Centre corridor does not have the vehicle detection systems Surtrac needs to affect traffic, CMU needed extra funding to provide them.

The university secured private funding from UPMC, the Heinz Endowments, the

Hillman Foundation and the R.K. Mellon Foundation for the vehicle detection services, adaptive signal technology and dedicated short range communications (DSRC) radio antennas that can support future vehicle research.

CMU researchers have also secured additional research funding from the Hillman Foundation to study the more than 600 traffic signals in Pittsburgh to analyze the effectiveness of future deployments of Surtrac elsewhere in the city.

The project team has been further working to make commuting safer and quicker for pedestrians: intersections exchange signal phase information to service waiting pedestrians at lights without significantly affecting vehicle traffic, and the system can consider pedestrians and vehicles uniformly as component elements of traffic flow to give pedestrians greater priority in areas of high traffic.

Traffic21’s Surtrac project has studied adaptive traffic signal control technology to control real-time optimization of urban traffic flows for the last four years. It was begun in January 2010 and the pilot testing around Penn Circle and Penn Avenue started in 2012. Last year it was extended eastward on Penn to Fifth Avenue and the intersection with Beechwood Boulevard. Plans next are to extend the project further east along Penn to Braddock Avenue.


Allen Biehler, Executive Director University Transportation Center, Carnegie Mellon University, 412-208-5520,

Timothy McNulty, Communications Manager, Office of Mayor William Peduto, 412-660-1999,



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