If the drive from one Aurora location to another takes less time than it used to, thank the city's interconnected traffic signal system.
Since September, 54 signals have been upgraded and added to the system, which lets traffic engineers monitor congestion remotely from city hall and turn red lights green to keep cars flowing.
City staff members who run the system also thank the federal government and the Illinois Department of Transportation for roughly $10 million in grant funding that made the interconnected traffic signal system possible.
Crews now are in the process of installing new signals with cameras to monitor traffic at five intersections on East New York Street between Eola Road and Route 59, said Eric Gallt, the city's traffic engineer.
"It will have a significant impact on the operational capacity of the roadway, and therefore (drivers) should see some sort of relief for the congestion," Gallt said.
The signals on New York Street should be connected in time for what Gallt calls their first big test -- holiday shopping season.
Between Thanksgiving and Jan. 1, "we see a 50 percent increase in turning movements into the mall. It's a heavy movement that changes the traffic," he said.
City staff members will use the system to change the timing of the lights for peak holiday shopping, Gallt said. Crews can set the new timing to become effective just before Black Friday and ending Jan. 2.
While the system helps keep cars flowing on many major thoroughfares, Gallt said it has at least one limiting factor.
"If we see increases in traffic volumes, we're managing the congestion not necessarily decreasing the congestion," he said.
Next in line for connection to the system are six signals on Farnsworth Avenue from Molitor Road to New York Street and two near Farnsworth on Indian Trail. Those should be connected between November and March, Gallt said.
Possible grant funding to connect several signals on Eola Road is pending approval, said Ken Schroth, Aurora's director of public works.
When the system is complete, the city will be able to monitor 115 intersections citywide, but even then, the system will be in flux.
"It's a tool that allows us to get into our traffic signal system more deeply than we have in the past," Gallt said. "So it's always going to be a work in progress."