ODOT repairing TV Highway signals after 'power surge'
Traffic signals at two intersections along Southwest Tualatin Valley Highway in Aloha were knocked offline for more than 24 hours due to a power outage in the area.
As of the evening commute on Monday, Oct. 7, basic function has been restored at the intersections of Southwest 178th and 185th avenues with Tualatin Valley Highway, also signed as Highway 8. But a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation said there's still a significant amount of work that has to be done, as while the signals are cycling through red, yellow and green lights, more complicated systems like vehicle sensing and timing appear to have been knocked offline.
"There's really more to be done, but it is operating now efficiently, and it can handle traffic," said ODOT's Don Hamilton.
Before restoring the signals Monday, ODOT had been using flaggers to direct traffic at the two intersections.
"Things have been operating smoothly," Hamilton said. "It's slow when there are flaggers in place."
The problems apparently arose from a power outage that affected about 300 Portland General Electric customers in the Aloha area on Sunday morning, Oct. 6. However, it's unclear why the loss of power caused such extensive damage to ODOT's traffic signal boxes at the two intersections.
"We had about 300 PGE customers that lost their power, and they were back up and running within a couple hours," said Andrea Platt, spokeswoman for PGE.
She added, "The boxes that control those signals were impacted, but we don't yet know why."
Hamilton described the electrical surge that burned out electronics in the signal boxes as "a pretty high-voltage blast."
"These are protected systems," Hamilton pointed out. "We survive an awful lot of surges. We survive an awful lot of electrical issues."
He added, "We still don't know exactly what problems it created."
Thankfully for both ODOT and commuters, the situation wasn't as bad as initially feared. Hamilton said the state was planning Sunday to install temporary traffic signals.
"That's kind of a last resort," he explained.
Instead, workers were able to get the existing signals back online faster than anticipated.
Sunday's outage appears to have been caused by downed power lines in the area, but PGE hasn't determined what brought them down, Platt said.
An investigation is ongoing. So is ODOT's work to restore the traffic signals, including the pedestrian crossings at those intersections, to full function. Hamilton said that work could take several more days, if not longer.
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