Considering the increasing frequency of litigation involving accidents at signalized intersections, it is apparent that more effective management and maintenance procedures for traffic signal systems are needed. In the early 1990s, the City of Sioux Falls Traffic Engineering Office averaged only one yearly instance of litigation where traffic signal operations played a part in legal reviews. This past year, that office has either been subpoenaed, provided depositions, or provided traffic signal timing data to attorneys for court cases at least a dozen times. Compounding the problem is the lack of any qualitative means to systematically track work that occurs on traffic signal systems, nor are there currently any reliable means to retain records of such work. Also, there is no formal inspection program in place in regard to the structural integrity of traffic signal poles and mast arms. Finally, access to traffic signal control boxes is currently provided through a single "one size fits all" key and there are no certification or licensing requirements for those accessing the control boxes to perform maintenance work.
South Dakota has determined the need to develop a traffic signal management and maintenance system to address all of the deficiencies that currently exist. At the same time, there is a strong recognition that initiation of such a development effort cannot happen until the underlying policies, agreement forms, and "undocumented" procedural standards become more resolutely and fully defined. The policies, agreements, and procedural standards collectively represent the guidelines that would normally be used to develop the system requirements for a traffic signal management and maintenance system. Until now, the collective guidelines for traffic signal maintenance on state routes have never undergone a thorough review. The process of reviewing these guidelines would entail close coordination with affected local government entities so that mutually satisfactory levels of understanding might be achieved. The reviews would help the Department and local government entities to:
assess adequacy of the guidelines as they currently stand for traffic signal management and maintenance;
identify and resolve barriers that may be inherent;
ensure that mutually satisfactory procedural standards can be drafted and enjoined;
ensure that all duly recognizable legal, jurisdictional, and authoritative requirements are met;
prepare for a systems development effort that would ultimately support better traffic signal management and maintenance in South Dakota.
Formulation of the final policies, agreements, and procedural guidelines would outline the system requirements for a South Dakota Traffic Signal Management and Maintenance System. However, development of the system requirements would also need to be complemented with thorough reviews of any existing management and maintenance systems that might have related aspects that could be incorporated. These reviews would include examination of the South Dakota "Traffic Signal Inventory System" (developed approximately 5 years ago, but never put into production), any Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technologies that might be associated, or any similar system development efforts that may have occurred at other state transportation departments.