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Posted on Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Washtenaw County Road Commission to expand traffic surveillance

By Kody Klein


The Washtenaw County Road Commission's installation of wireless broadband interconnections and traffic surveillance cameras began in 2011 with $1.2 million worth of funding from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program. There are currently nine cameras in place and the $490K expansion project would add seven more in 2013.

Daniel Brenner I

The Washtenaw County Road Commission will vote Tuesday on a project to add wireless broadband interconnections and traffic surveillance cameras to traffic signals in Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, Ann Arbor Township and Pittsfield Township.

The 2013 Signal Interconnect Project would begin this summer, using $490,000 from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program to add wireless connections to 13 intersections and traffic surveillance cameras to seven of those intersections.

Capture surveillance.PNG

The green markers represent places where traffic surveillance cameras have already been installed and the red markers represent places that will receive them as part of the 2013 expansion. Though not featured in the map, there are also cameras on Jackson Road at the Zeeb Road intersection and the Baker Road intersection.

Courtesy of the WCRC

Four of the cameras would be installed along Washtenaw Avenue between Carpenter Road and Oakwood Street, one would be installed at Hewitt and Packard, and two would be installed along Huron River Drive between Geddes Road and Clark Road.

The 2013 plans are an expansion of an existing project that began in 2011. That project already has included the installation of wireless connections and surveillance cameras to nine intersections and the integration of those devices into a central traffic system. WCRC staff are then able to monitor traffic flow and adjust the timing of traffic signals remotely.

"To have somebody sit at multiple intersections during peak time is not possible, especially with our limited staff," said Brent Schlack, project manager for traffic safety at WCRC. With the wireless connections and cameras, he said one person can view multiple intersections and make adjustments right then by viewing the camera.

Schlack said none of the data from the cameras is recorded and no one spends a tremendous amount of time watching them. He said WCRC technicians usually check the cameras in the morning to make sure everything is working properly. They also check them whenever they receive complaints about traffic signals that are damaged, malfunctioning, or that are timed poorly.

The existing project cost $1.2 million and also was funded by CMAQ. Roy Townsend, managing director of the WCRC, said the expansion costs significantly less because the WCRC has completed the installation of the necessary technological infrastructure to support the central traffic system, including towers for the wireless signals.

Although the system has only been used for traffic purposes, Schlack said the WCRC has met with officials from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office and Pittsfield Township Police Department about the possibility of expanding its uses.

Sheriff Jerry Clayton said WCSO only has had preliminary discussions with the WCRC about using the wireless surveillance system to enhance the efficacy of the county's dispatch center.

"It would enable our dispatch service to better send emergency response resources to critical incidents that occur throughout the county," Clayton said. "The focus for us is public safety, better delivery of service. If partnering with the road commission will better enable us to do that, then we’re very interested in doing it."

The WCRC is collaborating with the Michigan Department of Transportation for the 2013 expansion, because MDOT owns the traffic signals along Washtenaw Avenue, a state road. Though, MDOT is not contributing funding.

"We would be connecting and bringing them into our system, but ultimately they would be owned by the state," said Sheryl Soderholm Siddall, director of engineering for the WCRC.

Kody Klein is an intern for Reach him at


Steve Pierce

Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 3:28 a.m.

State Law prohibits municipalities from installing red light and speed cameras.


Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 10:22 a.m.

Good. I'm sure they'd use them, if they could, primarily between 1 and 4:45 am

Patrick Maurer

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:36 p.m.

The money would be better spent on the deteriorating roads, don't you think! Willis road is turning into a cow pasture, no, I've seen better pastures. The stretch between Whittaker to Stoney Creek is getting so bad it is unsafe.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:12 p.m.

"Traffic lights that are timed poorly" How come here in Oakland county, the signal's with the cameras are red so long and traffic always back up. Its like they go out of their way to slow traffic down. So often you just drive and stop to each traffic light. You wait for a min, drive to the next light and stop and wait another min. Then they tell us how Runabouts are the answer, lol


Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 10:21 a.m.

'Cause in roundabouts there are no lights to stop you and make you sit. You just keep moving. But during very heavy traffic they can be pretty problematic. Any other time, they're better because of little chance for fatal crashes, and little boiling of blood over stopping at multiple lights in a row. Also, Washtenaw County is probably just as bad--or worse--than Oakland in this regard. Seems to be by city there----Pontiac, Oak Park and Walled Lake being among the worst. In Pontiac, you literally have to stop and sit at every single light for its full duration!


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 9:19 p.m.

I am in total agreement with beeswing. Now, with cameras installed at many intersections, motorists will be getting penalized for not driving really slow and not sitting through all of the 80% reds among lights (if you don't believe me that 80% are red---even late at night--go out and check it for yourself). Now, if you sit at, say, Plymouth and Barton southbound, while the northbound light is green but has no green left-turn arrow, and decide to run it after careful appraisal at 3:30 am, you will be ticketed much the same as if you had barreled through an intersection near a school at 3 pm. Not to mention that nearly 95% of left turn arrows expire right when you arrive (research that one too!)


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:20 p.m.

Yep, you no long zip through intersections. Its one of the reasons why traffic deaths are at record lows. Not cause theses newer cars are really safer in a crash--if anything they fall apart easier then ever when hit hard. Death rates are down due to way more traffic lights, left turn green arrows. Everybody wears their seat belts today. Blood alcohol levels are the lowest ever and its easier then ever to lose your drivers license. Back in the 1970's, you were 100% legal to drive with a .08 alcohol level and no seat belt. Impaired was .10 and drunk wasn't till .17 is super drunk. Back in the 1970's that was just your normal drunk driving arrest. Lets not forget too cell phones that report accidents in seconds. In the old days, you just laid there for 5--10 mins before a person found a pay phone and called for help.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 7:11 p.m.

We also need signs telling us how far to the next corner like those on I-94 .................


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:21 p.m.

Money well spent, lol


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 5:53 p.m.

I have lived several places but the light system in Washtenaw County feels to me like the worst of anyplace I have driven. There are so many intersections where you have to sit through more than one light cycle either because there is not enough time in a cycle for all cars stopped to make it through or by design, as only being allowed to make a left on every other cycle. And speaking of left turns why are we not allowed to make left turns with a blinking red but only with a dedicated left green light, particularly at relatively low traffic intersections? Why are lights not timed to allow traffic to flow when going the speed limit? On Stadium, for instance, it seems one has to stop at every light, included ones where often there is nary a car going the other way, like Federal to name one. I think this all leads to more frustrated drivers, clogged intersections and wasted fuel.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:22 p.m.

And we are told not to text and drive. What should we do as we sit and sit forever ?


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 4:21 p.m.

I know i'm going to get a lot of down votes. I don't really pay attention to the traffic cameras because I try to obey the traffic laws. So I'm not worried about "Big Brother" watching me. Now, I know many of you will try to tell me I should but if North Korea ever defeats us then I will.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:24 p.m.

I don't pay attention to cameras either. Michigan can not ticket you by photo anything. (which I'm sure our governor would love to change)


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 3:41 p.m.

Not sure how these will fix the roads.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

County Sheriff's Office and Pittsfield Township Police Department about the possibility of expanding its uses. Like many other cities across the US this is how they started, now that they'll all be installed guess what. They'll use them to start issuing and mailing you a ticket for running red lights and speeding, this is exactly what many County Sheriff's Office and Pittsfield Township Police Department about the possibility of expanding its uses. The latest automatic number plate recognition systems can be used for the detection of average speeds and raise concerns over loss of privacy and the potential for governments to establish mass surveillance of vehicle movements and therefore by association also the movement of the vehicle's owner. Vehicles owners are often required by law to identify the driver of the vehicle and a case was taken to the European Court of Human Rights which found that the Human Rights Act 1998 was not being breached. Some groups, such as the National Motorists Association in the USA, claim that systems "encourage ... revenue-driven enforcement" rather than the declared objectives.[1] That's how we'll get the revenue to pay for the roads.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:26 p.m.

The law needs to be changed first.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

I agree with your assertions up until the last sentence. They'll use the funds to up-armor the police state.

G. Orwell

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

"Schlack said none of the data from the cameras is recorded and no one spends a tremendous amount of time watching them." Even if you believe this guy, it will be temporary. They will record and continue to expand the program. This is what Big Brother or Big Sis wants. Everything we do will be tracked, monitored and recorded. Why do you think Big Brother has approved 30,000 drones for the US air space. Not only that, Obama says he can use the drones to assassinate US citizens living in the US. He will be the judge, jury, and the executioner. WC Commissioners have to ensure these cameras are not used for anything other than safety and traffic improvements.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:27 p.m.

I trust my life with Obama over that other guy who could careless if I died. Yeah I don't agree with everything our president does but he was the lesser of the two evils


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:42 p.m.

Discussion at the office watching the cameras: "Hahaha...look at that pothole! It's bigger than yesterday! OH another bent rim! Anyone need a coffee refill?"


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:28 p.m.

So that is what they do, lol


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

I can only wish they were redlight cams... yellow = accelerate here.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

What a waste.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

That's an awful expensive fix.Assuming that itb even works that is.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:11 p.m.

"no one spends a tremendous amount of time watching them." Boy, sounds like they are really needed!!!


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:05 p.m.

Schlack said none of the data from the cameras is recorded and no one spends a tremendous amount of time watching them. He said WCRC technicians usually check the cameras in the morning to make sure everything is working properly. How much time do they spend watching them, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or do they just walk by them and say their working? In the meantime the roads are crumbling, pot holes are getting bigger, and your installing more cameras. Why dont you just buy more police cars and don't man them, buy more uniforms and don't have anyone to wear them, or let's vote more politicians in so they can come up with more useless projects.

Martha Cojelona Gratis

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:33 a.m.

less police = more cameras?


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:29 p.m.

Yep, just have the lights red for most the time and traffic will just creep along. Run a red light and then that is reckless driving and good bye drivers license.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:32 a.m.

1.2 million already spent plus $490,000 for expansion ...... that same amount would go a long way towards fixing Stadium, Ann Arbor Saline, Carpenter Road and perhaps countless other miles of Washtenaw Co roads and bridges in deplorable condition. Maybe even a couple of loads of gravel for our rural wagon trail. Why is the road commission so enamored spending money on trucks, pay raises, hiring more help, cameras, roundabouts and giveaways to Enbridge? Their excuses for not actually doing something to rebuild the roads sound more like those given by a grade schooler not wanting to do their home WORK. This time, the excuse will be this money is from some unusable pot except for cameras. In reality, it is from the same pot... our tax dollars wasted yet again. Sad.


Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 3:01 p.m.

Why has become a conduit for readily available construction schedules and the defense of the agencies providing the information? A better story would be why 2016 for Stadium? Why is AnnArbor-Saline pushed back to 2014? What are we doing this year with the money we have? How much is spent on cold patching? Does every hour spent by the road commission on federal projects subtract from the available man hours for local projects? The importance of dust control on gravel roads?

Amy Biolchini

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

ruminator, much of the money used for these projects come from federal funding sources specifically designated for this kind of a project. Frustrations with the design of these programs would be better suited for the ears of your elected officials in D.C. The portion of Stadium before the newly constructed bridge is in the City of Ann Arbor and is not under the jurisdiction of the Washtenaw County Road Commission. There are plans to fix Stadium in 2016: I replied to you on the other thread regarding the roundabout, but Ann Arbor-Saline Road over I-94 is scheduled for construction 2014. It was originally slated to be completed this year, but MDOT did not have the funds in its budget to make that happen so it was pushed back: Carpenter Road between Washtenaw Ave. and Packard is scheduled for construction in 2014 as well.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 10:46 a.m.

Big Brother is watching us.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 10:39 a.m.

The facade of "monitoring traffic flow" is as obvious as the potholes in Washtenaw County. We all know (or should know) that this is just another waste of taxpaying dollars to use surveillance on unsuspecting drivers. The intersection at Carpenter and Washtenaw has been awful for years, and nobody has changed the timing. I seriously doubt it's going to change now.

Tom Todd

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 10:10 a.m.

anything to get out of filling potholes.