Reducing congestion is the number one thing the public wants, and a pilot program on Chinden Boulevard shows the potential of the latest software and hardware -- cutting drive time at rush hour by 20 percent.

A combination of better detection technology, which lets the signal controller (computer) know how heavy traffic is on the main and side streets, and newer signal software cut travel time by one-fifth on Chinden from Locust Grove to Highway 16, according to a before-and-after study by ACHD.

The new detectors rely on radar instead of video, which allows the signal to "see" how heavy traffic is and make small adjustments to help the largest amount of traffic flow better. Another plus: the radar detectors don't get confused by fog or bright sunlight, two problems that occasionally upset the video detectors used at most intersections. Paired with the detectors are better controllers, which analyze the data and allow engineers and technicians to make micro adjustments that can add up to major time savings from drivers.

Notice the smooth flow of traffic in the second run, after the new technology had been added:

Funds from increased registration fees will allow ACHD to deploy the new technology to Eagle Road, Fairview Avenue and other corridors, sooner rather than later.

And besides adding the latest technology, the extra funding could also underwrite improved intersections with new or expanded turn lanes and other features -- such as the flashing yellow arrows, which have been used to improve traffic flow at 180 intersections.

The combination of low- and high-tech solutions offers the best hope of keeping congestion in check.