Approximately $1.1 million that the Brownsville Metropolitan Planning Organization awarded for city transportation projects in 2014 is being put to use improving traffic flow and making things safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The money is part of around $4 million in federal dollars the MPO received in 2012 through the Texas Department of Transportation’s Category 7 “Metropolitan Mobility and Rehabilitation” funding. Mark Lund, BMPO director, said the funds are being used to install or optimize traffic signal timing at seven locations around town.

In some or all cases, this will involve push-buttons. At pedestrian crossings without pole-mounted push buttons, the signals are programmed to give people adequate time to cross, depending on how many lanes there are, Lund said.

At a seven-lane intersection, for example, the light gives cyclists and pedestrians a full 20 seconds, whether anyone is waiting to cross or not, he said. If no one is waiting to cross, it’s a pointless impediment to traffic flow throughout the day, he said.

“It’s slowing down the cars for the ghost pedestrians,” Lund said. “You have that all over U.S.”

At least one location, McLelland Boulevard to Medical Street on Boca Chica Boulevard, is also getting new sidewalks as part of a project to upgrade the crossing at Barnard Road, he said. Other locations where work is also underway or planned include Minnesota Avenue at Ruben Torres Boulevard, and Morningside Road and South Central Avenue.

“The heart of the improvements is signal optimization,” Lund said, adding that Category 7 funding is good because it’s versatile.

“The charm about Category 7 is you can do a Morrison Road (extension) or studies trying to prime the pump,” he said.

Meanwhile, the BMPO directs its funding toward projects depending on feedback it gets from residents at public meetings, Lund said.

“We want to hear it from the people: Where do you want to go? Is it a good route or is it messed up? What do you want us to?”

The current projects, which include the installation of flashing beacons and safety lighting in addition to traffic signals and buttons, are expected to be complete by September 2019, according to TxDOT, which has the contract with Austin Traffic Signal, the firm doing the work. The city provides a local match in order to receive the MPO/federal funds.