Palm Beach County engineers adjust traffic lights to ease backups during Presidential visits

Posted at 4:54 PM, Feb 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-17 19:11:56-05

When President Trump comes to town one of the biggest impacts on all of us is the traffic.

But you may not know, behind the scenes, county engineers are trying to get you where you need to go as efficiently as possible.

Palm Beach County Engineer George Webb says, "We're able to communicate both ways to the signals, and the signals back to this room" in the county's traffic management center. They can view hundreds of intersections and control 700 traffic lights from one room.

County engineers spend the day watching multiple traffic cameras looking for traffic lights they need to manipulate.

When the President comes to town there are about 15 key intersections they watch and change the traffic lights to help people get off the island of Palm Beach.

"We're going to call it the 'Island Dump' for lack of a better term, to move people out of there, we applied that I think last time and we got nothing but accolades from the Town of Palm Beach how well it worked for people getting off," Webb said.

He added that his team changes the east-west green lights to last about three minutes instead of the average two. That means if you are going north or south.. you'll have to wait.

"So yes, we're sorry about that but we've got a lot more people moving east-west than north-south for those particular couple of hours. Yes, in this whole process we unfortunately have to pick who we favor, in a given time of day, in a given stretch of roadway," he said.

And it's not just for getting people off Palm Beach, Webb said the priority is always trying to ease traffic tie-ups.

"If the president is on the move and needs to go somewhere, sometimes the Secret Service will let us know and give us a few minutes notice and then we can respond potentially be able to facilitate the sheriff's office instead of shutting down the intersections and moving on the red light or something like that, we can turn it green for them," Webb said.

And they'll continue to make adjustments as President Trump continues his visits to the Winter White House.

Engineers do not control traffic signals on Southern Boulevard when the President's motorcade comes through.

They said the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and Secret Service handle that, however the Secret Service has visited the traffic management center.