Lakeland will receive a grant to fight red lights

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LAKELAND — Lakeland officials will accept a $500,000 cooperative funding grant from the Florida Department of Transportation to expand the city’s use of smart technologies aimed at reducing the number of fatal car crashes.

City commissioners voted unanimously to accept state funding to help expand Lakeland’s Intersection Collision Avoidance Safety Program, or iCASP, from four to 25 intersections by June 2023 The total cost of the project is approximately $775,000, with the city responsible for $225,000.

“In terms of smart city applications, which we all hear about and a lot of people struggle with, ‘what does that really mean’.” it’s a perfect example,” said City Manager Shawn Sherrouse.

Sherrouse said the iCASP system works by extending the full red phase of a traffic light when sensors detect a vehicle traveling too fast to stop safely before the intersection. Depending on the distance and vehicle speed, the software will delay the green light by approximately two to four seconds when it deems it necessary to avoid a crash.

How it started:Lakeland is expanding its red-light detection program on Monday

Lakeland has been operating the red light detection program at four major intersections in a pilot study since February 2021:

  • US 98 South and North Crystal Lake Road
  • South Florida Avenue at Beacon Road
  • West Memorial Boulevard at Martin L. King Jr. Boulevard
  • East Memorial Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue

Jeff Weatherford, the city’s traffic operations manager, did not have exact numbers immediately available on how often iCASP is activated at these intersections.

A red light camera is installed at the intersection of Memorial Blvd and Massachusetts Ave.  in Lakeland.  City commissioners voted unanimously to accept state funding to help expand the city's intersection collision avoidance program, or iCASP, from four to 25 intersections by June 2023.

“Looking at the data, every day at the four locations we have, a significant number of people enter the intersection when the light is red,” he said.

Weatherford said a quick look showed about 60 vehicles traveling eastbound on Memorial Boulevard ran a red light at the intersection of N. Massachusetts Ave. and Lakeland Hills Boulevard on Monday. Of these, six times occurred after opposing traffic was given green despite the iCASP system.

The sites chosen to be included in the city’s pilot study were, in part, chosen because they are also equipped with red light cameras. This allowed city staff to go back and check the video to see what happened.

Weatherford said an additional 21 locations won’t necessarily have red-light cameras because tracking red-light detection video was difficult and time-consuming.

“Traffic operations are not affected by enforcement,” Weatherford said. “We are concerned about keeping people safe and not having serious injuries.”

Lakeland officials should meet with FDOT to determine which intersections could see the greatest improvement and reduction in accidents by installing iCASP. There is no list yet.

“Some have to be on their roads, some may be on other roads,” Weatherford said. “I suspect a significant number of them, based on volumes and potential crashes, will be on FDOT routes.”

A red light camera is installed at the intersection of Memorial Blvd and Massachusetts Ave.  in Lakeland.  City commissioners voted unanimously to accept state funding to help expand the city's intersection collision avoidance program, or iCASP, from four to 25 intersections by June 2023.

There’s a good chance the red light detection program will be installed at intersections along Bartow Road/US 98, Memorial Boulevard/US 92 and George Jenkins Boulevard, Weatherford said. City streets likely to have the system include Cleveland Heights Boulevard, Edgewood and Lake Parker drives.

Mayor Bill Mutz asked city staff to ask the FDOT about the possibility of installing the iCASP system at signal intersections near city schools.

The bulk of the project cost will be spent upgrading the city’s video detection and signal performance software at selected intersections that provide the data to work with iCASP.

City staff are also studying a new mobile app that could partner with iCASP to potentially send alerts to drivers near a red light runner. A cell phone alert could be worded to say something like “Caution: Watch for passing traffic,” Weatherford said. The goal is to make drivers more alert, not to slam their brakes.

“For me, it’s more exciting than the original concept.” he said.

Sara-Megan Walsh can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7545. Follow on Twitter @SaraWalshFl.

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