Monday, October 18, 2021
Oct. 18, 2021

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Working in Clark County: Mark Rodgers, traffic signal technologist

By , Columbian News Assistant
Published:
4 Photos
Mark Rodgers, a senior traffic signal technologist with Clark County Public Works, makes repairs at a traffic signal cabinet.
Mark Rodgers, a senior traffic signal technologist with Clark County Public Works, makes repairs at a traffic signal cabinet. Photo Gallery

o Wait time: Clark County has fairly long cycles for signal lights but the longest time you will ever wait at a light is 3 minutes. Since 2010, radar above the intersection is used to determine the flow of traffic.

o Flashing yellow arrows: Newer to Clark County, but Oregon and parts of Washington have been using them for 10 years.

o Upgrades: Clark County is on pace for 25 signal upgrades per year.

o Cost: There are federal standards to determine if a signal light is warranted. It costs about $200,000 for a new light, including the underground infrastructure and installation.

o o It is not necessary to beat on the signal button to get a walk signal. It only takes 0.8 ounces of pressure to change the signal.

Mark Rodgers likes to know how things work. He started taking computer programing classes after serving in the Army. While working for the Oregon Department of Transportation, he figured out how to repair the computer-run traffic signals. Now he trains others on how to repair the signals. “I am known as ‘The Guy’ in knowing how to fix the signals,” Rodgers said.

o Wait time: Clark County has fairly long cycles for signal lights but the longest time you will ever wait at a light is 3 minutes. Since 2010, radar above the intersection is used to determine the flow of traffic.

o Flashing yellow arrows: Newer to Clark County, but Oregon and parts of Washington have been using them for 10 years.

o Upgrades: Clark County is on pace for 25 signal upgrades per year.

o Cost: There are federal standards to determine if a signal light is warranted. It costs about $200,000 for a new light, including the underground infrastructure and installation.

o o It is not necessary to beat on the signal button to get a walk signal. It only takes 0.8 ounces of pressure to change the signal.

Working in Clark County, a brief profile of interesting Clark County business owners or a worker in the public, private, or nonprofit sector. Send ideas to Mary Ricks: mary.ricks@columbian.com; fax 360-735-4598; phone 360-735-4550.


Name:
Mark Rodgers

Job/employer: A senior traffic signal technologist for Clark County Public Works.

Age: 56.

Professional background: I served in the Army for four years. I wanted the most technical job they had to offer, and in 1976, I worked in telecommunication and on telephone switching systems. After the Army, I went to college for a couple years thinking I wanted to be an engineer. Then I learned about software engineering, which was somewhat of a weird science at that time. I transferred to Oregon State University in 1980 and started taking computer programming classes. In 1982, I left school and was hired by Oregon Department of Transportation.

How my job evolved: The state of Oregon had adopted a new computer system which controlled signals shortly before I started working there and it was a still a mystery to the ODOT workers. We got a call about a signal malfunction and my first foreman and I went to the site. We opened the control cabinet door and he said, it’s broke. I fixed the problem and from that day on I got all the calls about the new computer-controlled signals.

I was at ODOT for about 25 years before I started my own company, Columbia Technical. One of my customers was the city of Portland. I developed a new traffic signal controller for them and the manufacturer of the software, Northwest Signal Supply, wanted to hire me. I worked there for about a year and a half and found I was traveling a lot more than I wanted.

I learned that Clark County was creating a position quite similar to what I was doing for the signal supply company. In August 2010, I started working for Clark County. At that time when we installed a new signal light, it would take eight to 10 hours to start functioning. Each part had to be loaded with technology and configured to do its job. I suggested I could do it a better way so when we put the cabinet on the foundation, it would be ready except for connecting wires. We were now able to get the signal turned on in two to four hours.

Working in Clark County, a brief profile of interesting Clark County business owners or a worker in the public, private, or nonprofit sector. Send ideas to Mary Ricks: mary.ricks@columbian.com; fax 360-735-4598; phone 360-735-4550.

Most rewarding part of job: First, when we turn on a new signal and have all the systems online and running, it is rewarding. The engineers can remotely access all the data and can even determine how many cars are on the road at any given time. Second, most of the analysis in the past was by using road tubes or spot counters sitting at intersections. We have automated a lot of this and are putting in more wireless technology to track where cars are and how long it takes to travel from one place to another. We can do a massive count continuously.

Most challenging part of job: I would like to become obsolete. We have technicians to maintain the equipment and I would like to have them become comfortable with the technologies. I am known as “The Guy” and I do a lot of one-on-one training. There is a difference in reading a book about a radar sensor and being out in the field and figuring out why the signal isn’t working like it should.

Personal/business philosophy: All knowledge is meant to be passed along and not one of us knows everything. Through interacting and sharing, we all have something to learn from one another.


Something you would like to do over:
Going forward, I would like to write applications for android systems so we can have small equipment in our hands to do our job. Currently, I carry a 20-pound laptop and there is a real hazard when it is exposed to rain and wind.

Residence: Woodburn, Ore.

Best feature of my Clark County community: The people I work with.


Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store:
Jerusalem Cafe and Anoush Deli.

Hobbies: I enjoy remodeling, repairing and building computers and playing guitar.

Favorite travel destination: My wife and I went to Mexico for our last big trip.

Most interesting book in last 12 months: I usually read technical manuals but I did like “Divergent” by Veronica Roth. I also like books by Tom Clancy and Dan Brown.

Most interesting play/movie/arts event: Any movie with Tom Hanks or Nicolas Cage.

One thing you want to do this year: My goal is to finish remodeling our family room.


One word to describe yourself:
Inquisitive.


Person you’d most like to meet:
Bill Gates. I would also like to talk to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden from Oregon or Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Columbian News Assistant
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