Counters keep track of traffic flow

Published 5:00 am Thursday, July 19, 2007

Brookhaven and Lincoln County residents may have noticed somestrange wires stretched across many of the roads in the county andwondered if there was a cable or electrical wire down.

Not to worry, said Mississippi Department of TransportationPlanner Sammy Holcomb.

“Those are traffic counters. We count one third of each city andcounty every three years,” he said. “We have a certain number inLincoln County this year, and we’ll count a third next year, andthe other third the year after that.”

Holcomb said the wires, which connect to boxes on the side ofthe road, may stay out for several days. However, two days’ worthof data is all that is counted.

“They stay out for 48 hours,” he said. “Then to average thedaily count, we take the total number and divide by two, then applyfactors for seasonal variation and other such matters.”

He said the data collected is mostly for basic statistical use,but MDOT often does such road surveys for special projects or otherneeds.

“We have the data for various reasons: for our database, forstatistical purposes, and for specific purposes such as pavementneeds, lights, and other things,” said Holcomb, who also said thecounts are not being done in connection with any specific LincolnCounty project.

For certain projects, he said, MDOT puts men on the street to dothe work the old-fashioned way.

“Sometimes we have a project that calls for a manual count,” hesaid. “In those cases, someone’s actually sitting on the streetcounting.”

He said for pavement needs and repaving, there will often be anextra count to be sure the pavement grade meets the usage on theroad.

“In that case we’ll do an extra count. Like if the pavementneeds designing, we do what’s called a classification count,” hesaid. “That counts cars, trucks and motorcycles. It helps determineloads on the pavement.”

He said three years from now, though, area motorists can expectto see the wires at exactly the same time of the year, as there aresometimes seasonal differences in traffic.

“The schedules differ in what third of the county we do everyyear, but the counts we have this year in 2010 will be counted atthe same time to keep the consistency,” he said.