More money for Mercer to make commute more reliable, not faster

SEATTLE — Talk to commuters on Mercer Street and it's a mixed bag.

“Coming into work at 8:30, it could be 25 (minutes,) half an hour up to work,” David O’Hare said as his car waited at a stop light.

But commuters see improvements too.

“I think the lights they've done something that's made it better,” said Debbie Kleid said.

“The goal with the project was to basically... get more reliable travel times going east-west through the Mercer corridor,” Mark Bandy, Seattle Department of Transportation operations director, said.

Because accidents and stalled cars can clog the corridor, maintenance trucks are being outfitted with gear to get traffic moving again.

In addition, the city will spend nearly $1.7 million on two systems to manage stoplights on a minute-to-minute basis depending on traffic.

Adaptive streetlights will monitor traffic volumes on a second-to-second basis and adjust the lights accordingly.

A separate software project will adjust stoplights in anticipation of special events like ballgames.

But Mercer travel times won't likely better than the 10- to 12-minute peak hour average Bandy points to.

“Which is not to say there is not value in the project,” he said.

The hardware for those adaptive streetlights has already been installed, Bandy says. But it will take until early next year to write and test the necessary software.