City installing improved traffic system

A traffic light at River Road and Wheatland Road. A stretch of River Road in Keizer will receive new fiber optic cables in a six week construction project slated to begin Dec. 2. (JOSHUA MANES/Keizertimes)

The city of Keizer is currently working with the city of Salem and North Star Communications to install a new fiber optic traffic control line along River Road from Swingwood Drive to the south end of Keizer. 

The project is already underway with road crews pulling up copper wire, with an end date coming in around six weeks, according to Keizer Public Works director Bill Lawyer. 

Lawyer also noted that motorists on River Road should be prepared for longer wait times at lights in the coming weeks due in part to the construction that is happening. 

These longer wait times are arranged around providing commuters an easier time going where they need to go. The result is that during typically high commuter times, 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., priority will be given to the street lights on River Road. 

This will result in the side streets along River Road having higher wait times at lights during the construction period. 

The project involves replacing the copper-wire-based traffic control lines along Keizer’s main arterial roadway, which runs from Keizer to Salem, with a newer, more environmentally-resistant fiber optic material. 

“We partnered with Salem because they operate our traffic signals for us. All the signals in Keizer are built to Salem standards [and] inspected by Salem. They [also] maintain them for us,” Lawyer said. 

The contract for the project, a federal grant that is the product of the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study (SKATS), is between the city of Salem and the contractor, North Star Communications, though Keizer matches the price set by the grant. 

Lawyer noted that Keizer, for its part, will incur a cost of 10.27% of the total bid, around $175,000, for the project and that money will be taken from the city’s street fund. 

When asked, Lawyer stated this was a lower than average price for what a city might pay for this type of project. 

Projects like this highlight the interconnectedness of cities in Oregon as Keizer may be receiving the upgrade, Salem public departments manage them. 

According to Lawyer, the reasoning behind this is that “they have the expertise, the technology, the staffing, the knowledge, all of that to operate the signals for us. Salem also operates signals for ODOT.” 

Lawyer also discussed how traffic lights are not the only service managed by Salem. “It’s the same arrangement that we have with the sewer system too. The sewer [system] in Keizer is built to Salem standards [and] Keizer pays for that through our sewer rates and I hope [it] stays that way.”