City employees work to keep traffic flowing in Jacksonville

(Photo: Merrilee Moore)

JACKSONVILLE, Onslow County - When you're sitting in bumper to bumper traffic, do you ever wish someone was out there working to get things moving again? In Jacksonville, that's exactly what's going on.

Jacksonville's Traffic Operation Center is one of the most technologically advanced traffic centers in North Carolina. Housed in the Public Safety building, the center is a place where city employees have control over all of the traffic signals in the local area.

"One of the great things about this system is that we can customize the timing plans based on the day of the week, time of the month," Transportation Services Director Anthony Prinz said. "Before this system, they would just basically do what they wanted to do individually, so that's why you would go from a green to a red and a green and a red."

Jacksonville officials once thought a system like this was impossible, but now the city is able to monitor every intersection in Jacksonville.

"When we first started working with this system to optimize traffic, we had to create a special timing plan on Friday evenings just for the movie theater," Prinz said. "During that particular period, we have to give a lot of time to the movie theater's side of that intersection."

Prinz said he once counted over 600 cars in one hour leaving the local movie theater on a Friday night, but there are even bigger traffic problems that occur more frequently.

"Military pay weekends are challenging for us," Prinz said. "It seems like all the marines get paid and hen on Friday, Saturday and Sunday they want to go out and spend their money. So, there's a significant difference in the travel patterns during the payday weekends verses off payday weekends."

Prinz said that the center has 50 cameras in total and 20 of them are recording traffic 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He mentioned that holidays are big traffic challenges and expects the heaviest traffic days in Jacksonville to be this coming Tuesday and Wednesday as many residents are traveling for Thanksgiving.

If you ever see problems with a traffic signal in Jacksonville, you can call the traffic center and let them know by visiting their website here.

When traffic is bad, these city employees want you to know that you're not the only one who notices.