EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

April 27, 2010

Salem gets $260K grant

SALEM — While the road improvements might be more obvious, the town's technology infrastructure also is slated for an upgrade this summer.

Selectmen accepted a $260,000 federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant last night to fund part of an intelligent transportation system, or ITS. The board also authorized $150,000 to run additional fiber-optic cables to better connect public safety, municipal and education buildings in town.

The federal money, provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will pay for the second phase of the project. Phase I is funded through a $750,000 federal highway grant.

Community Development Director Bill Scott said ITS systems allow town officials to better control traffic flow. Phase I, which will be constructed this summer, would connect several sets of traffic lights.

Traffic cameras would be added at 14 "congestion hot spots" throughout town to monitor traffic, Scott said. From a command post at the police station, town officials can prevent traffic jams.

"Under sets of emergency conditions, what they will be able to do is use different traffic programs," Scott said.

For example, if there is a crash on Interstate 93 between Exit 1 and Exit 2 in Salem, people might be sent off the highway and onto Route 28 — causing a traffic jam, Scott said.

"They come in, and the traffic lights are not timed for that volume of cars," he said.

With the ITS system, police could select a traffic program that allows traffic on Route 28 to flow more smoothly to Exit 2 and back onto the interstate.

"You have that coordination and control back at the police station," he said.

The town has done some of the work for Phase I, such as securing permits and preparing to hang the necessary fiber-optic cables with National Grid. Phase II would add more roads to the system.

While those roads are receiving the fiber-optic cables needed to run the ITS system, the town also is adding fiber-optic lines to provide high-speed phone and computer services to municipal buildings, Scott said.

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