The mayor of Tyler promised the city would upgrade traffic lights to improve crowded roads and help come up with a medium-term plan to reduce congestion on South Broadway Avenue.
Martin Heines made the comments during his annual State of the City address. The ceremonial speech at Harvey Convention Center drew hundreds of leaders in the business, education, political and nonprofit communities.
The theme of the 2018 State of the City was "Time to Build," and highlighted the city's efforts in the past year to invest in major infrastructure, ranging from roads and stormwater drainage to parks and walking trails.
"We can no longer afford to be complacent," Heines said. "Technology is the building block of the 21st-century community. We must account for our outdated traffic signal system. Much of our signal system dates back to the 1970s, at a time when there was at (most) one-half the amount of traffic."
Heines said he has asked the city staff to bring a proposal for upgrading the traffic light system to Tyler's Half-Cent Sales Tax Board, the panel that makes recommendations to the City Council on how to spend money generated through the city's half-cent sales tax.
He said a smart technology system would allow city staff to control traffic lights remotely, from a centralized location, based on traffic flow. By comparison, he said the current system requires 160 different pieces of equipment to be synchronized by hand.
Heines also said the city and the Metropolitan Planning Organization, a transportation-planning agency affiliated with the city government, have asked the Texas Department of Transportation for a feasibility study on how to improve traffic on South Broadway.
Heines said the feasibility study will look at a 5-mile portion of South Broadway between the intersections with Amherst Street, near the Barclay apartment complex, and Farm-to-Market Road 2813, which is just south of the intersection of South Broadway and Toll 49.
That area of Tyler has seen rapid commercial and residential development. Dozens of the building permits the city issued in 2017 were concentrated around that 5-mile strip of South Broadway Avenue and Old Jacksonville Highway, which is often used as a shortcut to traffic on South Broadway.
"This is the most congested roadway in East Texas, and the 67th most con-
gested roadway in the state of Texas," Heines said. "And by the way, it was 110th last year, so we've moved up to 67th, and that's not the right direction.
"The study will provide recommendations that will help our agencies address the current and future mobility needs for our major retail corridor," he said. "And by the way, we all know that we are way past due on this project.
"So I am hopeful we can work with our stakeholders and find a positive, medium-term path forward that will benefit not only Tyler but the entire East Texas region," Heines said.
Heines said the city of Tyler spent $20 million — or 13 percent of its budget — investing in new infrastructure in 2017. He said the projects were all paid for in cash, meaning the city didn't issue bonds to build it.
Heines, along with members of the Tyler City Council, cited infrastructure improvements over the years such as improvements to Bergfeld Park, construction of Cambridge Drive, upgrades to the Golden Road Water Treatment Plant, creation of the Texas College District, and construction of the Earl Campbell Parkway.
"Infrastructure isn't an exciting topic, but it impacts every one of us, every moment of the day," Heines said. "As it is nationally, the state of our infrastructure is one of the most pressing issues we face in the community."