The Fairfax City Council has given the green light to the installation of a new computerized traffic signal system along Main Street (Va. Rte. 236).
The system is expected to ease congestion and improve driving time in a city that is plagued with bumper-to-bumper traffic during weekday rush hours.
The $98,777 system will link 22 stop lights on Rte. 236 between Jermantown and Pickett roads with a central computer that will synchronize signals automatically and coordinate the traffic flow.
Last year the City Council allocated $120,000 from its fiscal 1984-85 Capital Improvement Plan budget for the project.
James Shull, Fairfax's public works director, said that it would cost more than double this amount to connect the remainder of the city's traffic signals with the main computer in the next several years.
He said that a computerized signal system is "the most efficient way to handle traffic without building more lanes . . . . The new system will be a godsend for the city."
Local officials and residents had considered a traffic consultant's recommendation to widen Chain Bridge Road (Rte. 123) from two lanes to four to alleviate heavy northbound and southbound traffic through the city.
Some council members and residents, however, feared that widening the roads would ruin the community's "small-town atmosphere" and objected to upgrading the road system there.
Several citizens groups are studying the consultant's report and will make recommendations to council members at a special July 8 meeting.
Mayor George T. Snyder Jr. said the new traffic signal system was not an alternative to restructuring the city's roads. He said synchronizing the city's lights would merely "enhance" smoother travel throughout the city.
City Engineer John Veneziano said that the city's current traffic signal system is synchronized to some extent, but "it is not as good as it could be."
Veneziano added that the new system will change the timing patterns of the lights along Rte. 236 automatically for peak periods, and will alert the main computer to traffic signal failures.
Fairfax City has four employes in its sign and signal division, who are responsible for all traffic light repairs and sign replacement.
Shull said that the department is understaffed and has difficulty in maintaining the city's 37 traffic lights, traffic signs and other controls.
"Those people can't and don't take care of it all," he said.
At last week's regular council meeting, the computer contract was awarded to Eagle Signal Controls, a division of Gulf & Western Manufacturing Division.
In its report to the council, the Austin-based firm had blamed part of the city's traffic problems on the sign and signal division's failure to detect and correct light failures.
It also cited the area's rapid growth as contributing to the worsening traffic conditions.
Veneziano said that installing the new system will start immediately and should take at least four months to complete.