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Study May Boost Highway Ramp Meters

December 19, 2000

ST. PAUL (AP) _ Transportation experts are eagerly awaiting the results of a Minnesota study on freeway entrance ramp meters, as officials consider installing the devices on more highways nationwide.

A ramp meter is a type of stop light designed to reduce highway traffic by regulating how quickly cars can enter from onramps. It allows only one vehicle to enter a highway at a time, delaying the next car for as much as 15 seconds.

Many residents of the Twin Cities blame the ramp meters for traffic congestion, and hoped the study would spell the stop lights’ demise. Most traffic management professionals, however, are convinced that ramp meters improve traffic flow.

With the pioneering study, some meters in the Twin Cities area have been deactivated permanently, and others have been adjusted since the study began. It was believed to be the first time a mature freeway ramp meter system has been turned off.

Highway officials in several states have expressed interest in the Minnesota study.

Kansas City, which has no ramp meters, plans to add them soon, according to Sabin Yanez of the Missouri Transportation Department.

``We knew this study was going to be complete in 2001,″ Yanez told the St. Paul Pioneer Press for Monday’s editions. ``It was good timing, because we were looking at implementation in 2002-2003.″

Yanez is optimistic about the benefits of ramp meters.

``From a traffic engineering standpoint, there is data that has been out there for 20-30 years that metering does work,″ Yanez said. ``The biggest issue to show the public is how it’s benefiting them.″

The study was conducted in October and November by Cambridge Systematics, which is now analyzing the resulting data. A report to the Minnesota legislature on the study is due by Feb. 1.

``We will have an incredible empirical database about how ramp meters affect safety and traffic,″ said Cambridge’s Mark Cutler, who ran the study.

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