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Jim Gross describes the soon-to-be-installed adaptive traffic lights as being like "switching from an old TV to a new one."

On an old set, if you were on channel 2 and wanted to go to channel 10, you had to go up one channel at a time.

"Now you just go from channel 2 to channel 10," said Gross, York City's public works director. "You just press a button."

Upcoming light systems on Route 30 and Route 74 around the York area will use a similar process to hopefully cut down on congestion on the main roads, Gross said. He said he believes the project to install them will start this summer.

The state Department of Transportation is putting in the new signals in on all 11 intersections on Route 30 that have lights around York City, which means all the intersections from Kenneth Road to North Hills Road, according to documents from PennDOT. The intersections also fall in West Manchester, Manchester and Springettsbury townships.

PennDOT is doing the same for Carlisle Avenue from Maryland Avenue to Linden Avenue, and Richland Avenue from West Market Street to West College Avenue.

The setups use cameras to monitor the intersection, seeing where lines are building up and vehicles are waiting. So, as per Gross' analogy, if there's no one waiting in a left-turn-only lane, for example, the system simply skips it and moves on to allow traffic to move in the directions where cars are waiting.

It's also a "smart" system, Gross said, and will learn the normal patterns of cars at the various times of day so it can better prioritize.

PennDOT is paying for the installation, which will cost $790,000 just for the Route 30 lights, and then is maintaining the lights, which span several municipalities, for the next five years. After that, Gross said, the municipalities will take over maintenance. He said it will cost the city around $12,000 more a year than it pays currently, an amount that can come out of the city's liquid-fuels fund.

Gross spelled all this out for the York City Council at a meeting Tuesday night. After he was done, Council Vice President Michael Helfrich leaned forward to speak into his microphone.

"You don't seem overexcited about it, Jim," he said.

Gross agreed he was not, saying he'd raised a few concerns to PennDOT when he'd met with them. He later told The York Dispatch most of his concerns centered around how well the system will work and how long it will take people to adapt to it.

"The main thing is it’s new technology," he said, saying there aren't any other adaptive signals in York County.

He also expects local drivers to be frustrated at first — it'll be different than they're used to, and it might increase waiting times on secondary roads feeding onto main ones that get priority, he said.

"One of the things that'll probably happen initially is we'll receive more complaints," said the public works director.

But PennDOT is moving forward with the project, so the city doesn't have much choice, he told council, which on Tuesday OK'd a resolution to allow it to proceed.

"If it does reduce congestion," Gross said Tuesday night, "it'll probably be worth it."

— Reach Sean Cotter at scotter@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @SPCotterYD.

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