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(Sun Sentinel)   Man invents way to save traffic signals from hurricanes. Humans and houses are still screwed, though   (sun-sentinel.com) divider line 21
    More: Florida, Palm Beach County, Florida Department of Transportation, traffic lights, engineering department, South Florida metropolitan area  
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5080 clicks; posted to Main » on 15 Jul 2013 at 11:02 AM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



21 Comments   (+0 »)
   
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2013-07-15 10:49:25 AM  
Now he needs to invent a way to get the second page of TFA to load...

/your blog sucks.
 
2013-07-15 11:03:17 AM  
What good are humans and homes if traffic lights are damaged?
 
2013-07-15 11:08:09 AM  
Good.  I like traffic lights, no matter where they've been.
 
2013-07-15 11:11:33 AM  
halfway through the article it says when the lights went out everything turned into a free-for-all. It was Southern Florida, isn't it always like that?
 
2013-07-15 11:11:40 AM  

Mambo Bananapatch: What good are humans and homes if traffic lights are damaged?


It might be a good idea for traffic lights to stay in place during a hurricane and not turn into projectiles.
 
2013-07-15 11:12:22 AM  
Metered articles...

Florida tag must be for subby
 
2013-07-15 11:12:32 AM  

I_Am_Weasel


Good. I like traffic lights, no matter where they've been.


I like traffic lights, although my name's not Bamber.
 
2013-07-15 11:14:41 AM  
It wants me to log in.  Bad subby...
 
2013-07-15 11:18:07 AM  
How about these travesties?

www.sptimes.com
 
2013-07-15 11:24:32 AM  
I'm glad he fixed the traffic lights, but I wish he's get to work on the baggage retrieval system they've got at Heathrow.
 
2013-07-15 11:29:59 AM  
Well, since humans and houses will be hit by traffic signals and anything else blowin in the wind of a hurricane, the guy is working on it.
 
2013-07-15 11:33:08 AM  
FTA: But it wasn't an academic or traffic engineer who came up with a solution. It was a Palm Beach County home designer and master woodworker with no formal training.

Well, sure. A traffic engineer has a degree traffic and traffic patterns, that doesn't apply to traffic signals being destroyed by hurricanes, What would an academic know about it? Its like expecting a physicist to know anything about missile defense.

FTA: The father of nine owned a small family business designing homes. He had no engineering background. He had no experience with traffic signals.

"But I understood wind dynamics," he said of his experience designing homes. "I took that knowledge and applied it to traffic signals."


Okay. So, he is exactly the kind of person who knows something about the subject and is able to figure out a solution. QED

I sorta of quibble here, but I think there is a incorrect belief that education equals competence. Education certainly helps, but we don't turn to a "traffic engineer" to solve a problem like this. A traffic engineer might be aware of the problem, but his training is not going to be of much use in solving it.
 
2013-07-15 11:42:16 AM  
Now he should make red light cameras that fly away.
 
2013-07-15 11:49:47 AM  

stamped human bacon: How about these travesties?

[www.sptimes.com image 345x143]


What's wrong with them? I prefer them over the hanging deathtraps that get knocked around everytime there is a rainstorm.
 
2013-07-15 12:02:44 PM  

LargeCanine: I sorta of quibble here, but I think there is a incorrect belief that education equals competence. Education certainly helps, but we don't turn to a "traffic engineer" to solve a problem like this. A traffic engineer might be aware of the problem, but his training is not going to be of much use in solving it.


Pretty much; education in the proper area(s) is essential, and today can really be a team effort.

A traffic engineer decides where to put the lights, what their timings will be, and all those little nuances
This info is handed off to a structural engineer who figures out how to get the lights where the TE wants them.  Some talking back and forth may happen if a slightly different position might be significantly easier/cheaper, with the TE deciding whether the alternate positions are still within regulations.
Then it goes to an electrical engineer who figures out how to power everything,
etc...

In a lot of cases, for 'practical engineering' like making traffic signals that can survive a hurricane, there's no substitute for 'practical research', IE build stuff and test it.

But hey, you can see the patent here.  Oh, and a study he was apparently an author on, probably part of what convinced Florida to use his system.

/Can't see the second page, would like to see some details of his patented system.
 
2013-07-15 12:12:00 PM  
Found another one...  I think this guy spent more time writing paperwork than doing the design...
 
2013-07-15 12:43:05 PM  
When someone gets the second page to load, can you post it here.

/// friggin internets
 
2013-07-15 02:08:44 PM  
7:53 a.m. EDT, July 15, 2013
Those traffic signals that smashed to the ground, broke and fell apart while being flung to and fro by hurricane-force winds perplexed state traffic engineers and academics.
The wholesale failure of many of the state's traffic signals in 2004 and 2005 during eight back-to-back hurricanes, including Jeanne, Francis and Wilma in South Florida, had them scrambling to come up with new ways to make signals more stable. And save the state millions of dollars in repair costs.
But it wasn't an academic or traffic engineer who came up with a solution. It was a Palm Beach County home designer and master woodworker with no formal training.
Robert Townsend spent years - and almost went broke - persuading the Florida Department of Transportation to take a different approach to protecting traffic signals. Now, his patented design to make traffic signals hanging from wires more stable during hurricanes is being used throughout the state.
This month, the Florida Department of Transportation will spend $1.3 million retrofitting traffic signals with new pivotal hangers at 54 intersections throughout Palm Beach County. Another $1.3 million will be spent in Broward County at 52 intersections.
Plus, Townsend's design has become the state standard for installing new traffic signals that hang on wires.
"The whole goal is to have a controllable intersection after a storm," said Townsend, 60. "That's what's important."
His quest began in 2005. Like many South Floridians who lived through the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes, he remembers the turmoil after the storms at South Florida intersections.
Signal heads had snapped off. Parts were scattered on the streets. Sometimes whole signals lay on the road. Others barely hung from their wires. And with no red, green or yellow to tell drivers what to do, a free-for-all prevailed, with many forgetting the rules for four-way stops.
"It was chaos," Townsend recalled.
But that isn't what spurred The Acreage resident into action. It's when his wife, Mary Jo, ran a red light.
A storm was threatening to hit the area. As a precaution, Palm Beach County's engineering department had taken down a number of traffic signals. It was a standard procedure after 2004 to make sure the county had enough parts and inventory afterward.
That left one traffic signal controlling traffic on westbound Southern Boulevard at Sansbury's Way. Townsend's wife inadvertently blew a red light on Southern Boulevard, failing to see the one traffic signal. She barely missed crashing into a car heading through the intersection on Sansbury's, Townsend said.
It made him wonder what happened to the other traffic signals. He made calls to the county and found out about its policy to remove traffic signals prior to a hurricane. And that's when he learned about the massive traffic signal causalities from prior storms, the difficulty in finding replacements because of the huge demand and the millions of dollars it would cost to repair and replace them.
Townsend got to work on finding a solution, but he was wading into foreign territory.
The father of nine owned a small family business designing homes. He had no engineering background. He had no experience with traffic signals.
"But I understood wind dynamics," he said of his experience designing homes. "I took that knowledge and applied it to traffic signals."
While working on a solution, Hurricane Wilma hit the area in 2005. More than two-thirds of the hundreds traffic signals in both Broward and Palm Beach County were wiped out. Replacing and repairing them would cost more than $40 million.
"Wilma stood by itself," said Dan Weisberg, Palm Beach County's traffic engineer, recalling the destruction that lead to a shortage of signal heads and other parts.
Townsend began doing some field work, collecting damaged signal parts and talking to witnesses who saw them fall apart.
At the same time, FDOT was investigating why it lost so many signals and looking for a stronger design that could withstand hurricane-force winds.
The failures occurred because the aluminum and wire hangers that fasten signals to two wires didn't hold up. Plus, the black box connected to the hangers and the signal heads often broke, Weisberg said.
Townsend's solution was to have the hangers pivot, giving them flexibility to move to handle the high winds. He also added reinforcements to the black box.
"It allows the signal to rotate, but it doesn't allow bouncing," Townsend said. "Bouncing is what destroys traffic signals."
The flexibility of his design ran counter to experts who favored a rigid design. Still, Townsend persisted.
"My wife and I bet the farm," he said.
Mortgage payments went to financing his efforts. And his home went into foreclosure. He's better off financially today as a result of his design, he said.
Eventually, FDOT tested out his design with the University of Florida. It found that Townsend's pivotal hangers could withstand gusts of up to 110 mph.
Engineers did pilot studies in Miami-Dade County in 2010. Soon after, the new, pivotal hangers were being installed around the state. They became the standard design last year.
"[FDOT] tested a number of hangers and components. This was the one they found to work the best," said Barbara Kelleher, an FDOT spokeswoman.
Still, Townsend is modest about his contribution.
"It's not a cure all," he said, admitting that his fix isn't as good as steel mast arms.
It's FDOT's policy to put up the sturdier mast arms at intersections within 10 miles of the coast. But it can cost up to $400,000 each to install them.
The cost led to FDOT to allow traffic signals with pivotal hangers in lieu of mast arms at some intersections.
The retrofitted signals going in at Broward and Palm Beach intersections will be on local, county and state roads that are part of state evacuation routes.
The intent is for those signals to not be removed in the event of a storm, Kelleher said.
That's what Townsend likes to hear. Though he's still waiting for the ultimate test of his work: "The main proof in the pudding will be when a hurricane hits," he said.
 
2013-07-15 03:56:50 PM  

Rezurok: 7:53 a.m. EDT, July 15, 2013


Thank You.
 
2013-07-15 09:50:55 PM  
thanks rezurok.

thats pretty interesting. little guy has an idea, bets the farm (literally, or in this case bets his house) and he comes up aces. the state wins (saves $) the people win (functioning lights after a storm) and he wins (he makes $) everybodys a winner. Nice to see a story like this coming out of Florida after what happened this weekend.
 
2013-07-16 01:19:43 PM  

ongbok: Mambo Bananapatch: What good are humans and homes if traffic lights are damaged?

It might be a good idea for traffic lights to stay in place during a hurricane and not turn into projectiles.


Yeah, I guess. *sulks*
 
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