Thornton: Advancing technology perches atop Scottsdale streetlights

A view of camera equipment perched atop local major intersections throughout the city of Scottsdale. (Submitted photo)

As motorists traveling down the roads, streets and thoroughfares of the city of Scottsdale some may start to wonder what those little cameras are atop local intersections.

Terrance Thornton

Scottsdale resident Phoebe Peck did.

In the 21st Century, the Scottsdale Traffic Management Center — thanks to cutting-edge surveillance technology — is aware of moves a motorist may make and every turn they might take within city limits.
Over the past decade, the city of Scottsdale has embarked upon a technological revolution that replaces antiquated systems with top-of-the-line hardware.

“I have noticed small cameras mounted on top of the traffic lights at many intersections in north Scottsdale — I saw them being installed at my immediate intersection on the way to work six or eight months ago and have been looking for them since,” she asked.

“They are usually on all sides of the intersection and they are not the photo enforcement types that are used for red lights or the ones that were used for speed. The new cameras at my intersection were installed either just before or just after the speed enforcement cameras were removed from the same immediate area.”

Ms. Peck ponders: What are they doing?

Turns out, they are watching you and your driving behavior to better improve the flow of traffic especially in the north Scottsdale area, officials say.

But to better understand the pursuit of the surveillance equipment atop local traffic light poles, I reached out to Kelly Corsette, who serves as the city’s public affairs director.

“Those cameras are part of our integrated traffic management system, allowing our traffic management center to monitor intersection conditions and make necessary adjustments in real time,” he said. “The newest installations also perform vehicle (and in some cases bicyclist) detection, replacing the old magnetic loops in the pavement that signal an intersection to initiate a signal change based on presence of a vehicle.”

Turns out behind the hustle and bustle of Scottsdale’s 311 traffic signals are fewer than 20 people making sure drivers see those green, yellow and red lights, according to reporting by our News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist.

Ms. Rosequist reported in July 2017 the Scottsdale Traffic Management Center, 9191 E. San Salvador Drive, can shift its focus on any area of Scottsdale at a moment’s notice and the control room’s floor-to-ceiling-wall of screens serves as the epicenter of traffic flow within city limits.

Officials at the Traffic Management Center considers the pursuit of the intelligent transportation system — or the cameras perched upon traffic lights — as a high-tech attempt to help the organization reach established goals. Goals like:

  • Reducing traffic congestion,
  • Improving driver information; and
  • Managing incidents that impact a motorist as they traverse along local thoroughfares.

Last fiscal year, the department operated on a $2 million budget for the traffic management center with an additional $200,000 for streetlight maintenance, city officials say.

The city of Scottsdale serves as home to more than 200,000 residents, and sees guests from around the world attending hundreds of annual events. In the next 25 years the desert city is projected to grow by more than 50,000, putting more vehicles on local streets, avenues and roads.

Regardless of the political temperament of the day, the Scottsdale Independent is here for you. So, what can your team of award-winning journalists get answered for you?

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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