Traffic Eng & Safety

Travel safety, complete streets, advanced signal tech, and VMT as a metric for environmental analysis in California

Traffic Signal Design: Engineering Concepts

This newly updated course covers basic concepts, standards, and practices related to the design and installation of traffic signals. Within the framework of the California Vehicle Code, California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (CA MUTCD), and Chapter 9 on Highway Lighting from Caltrans Traffic Manual. 

This course explores the relationship among various engineering disciplines as foundations for signal design, introduces signal phasing diagrams, signal controllers, and cabinets, and explains the layouts of signal heads, signal poles, conductor schedule, and associated signal conduits, pullboxes, wiring, interconnects, detection and safety lighting.

The course includes lectures, sample problems, and exercise projects that will familiarize the course participant with the design process for a simple signal design plan, and to provide for a unit-price-based cost estimate.

While this course focuses only on the introductory engineering aspects in signal design and introduce some local agency equivalent standards and specifications that vary from Caltrans, the goal is for the course participants to become familiar with standards and specifications that guide the design and lead to successful project delivery of an operational traffic signal.

Additional course detail is provided in the sections below.

  • Course Topics
    • Relationship of street designs & signal designs
    • Signal phasing, controllers, cabinets
    • Signal phasing
    • Signal heads, poles, conduits, pullboxes, detection
    • Intersection safety lighting
    • The format of contract documents
  • Course Outline
    Module 1: Overview of Traffic Signal Design Process
    • Justification, warrants, alternative analysis
    • Consideration of context (street design, land use, future use)
    • Ownership, operation, maintenance responsibilities
    • Applicable design references
    • Interactive Engagement Exercise
    Module 2: Signal Phasing, Operation, & Detection
    • Relationship between signal phasing & operations
    • Relationship between signal phasing & intersection design
    • Detection: purpose & alternatives
    • Detection: technology alternatives & selection process
    • Interactive Engagement Exercise
    Module 3: Controllers & Cabinets
    • Relationship between signal phasing & controller
    • Relationship between controller & cabinet
    • Controller hardware & software
    • Cabinet hardware
    • Interactive Engagement Exercise
    Module 4: Signal Heads & Poles
    • Signal heads: where do they go?
    • Visibility cones & use of PV heads, louvers, visors. Relationship to signal cabinet circuit breakers.
    • Poles: where do they go?
    • Consideration for pole placement: ADA, utilities, maintenance, and lighting considerations
    • Mast arms: height, length, wind-load
    • Signage installations on mast arms & signal poles; considerations
    • Interactive Engagement Exercise
    Module 5: Conduit & Wiring
    • Conductor Schedule
    • Conduit & pull boxes: why, where, size, type, conduit fill
    • Signal interconnect: hardware
    • Interactive Engagement Exercise
    Module 6: Intersection’s Highway Safety Lighting
    • Purpose
    • Lighting measurements, standards, guidance
    • Typical light contours & pole placement
    • Wiring, circuiting & service cabinets
    • Interactive Engagement Exercise
    Module 7: Specifications & Estimates
    • Purpose: what is included?
    • Key points: materials, execution, payment
    • Format: APWA, Caltrans, CSI, AIA, agency, etc
    • Cost estimates: relationship to specifications, format, examples.
    • Project delivery: design/bid/build, design-build, etc.
    • Interactive Engagement Exercise
    Module 8: Drawing a Signal Design Plan
    • Interactive Engagement Exercise
    • Wrap-up, Course Evaluation, Certificates
  • What you will learn

    Students gain a good working understanding of concepts and standards needed to develop plans for traffic signal installations, including step-by-step procedures.

  • Who should attend

    This is an introductory course targeted for traffic engineers, technicians, and maintenance and construction personnel with little or no experience in how to plan for and install traffic signals.

  • Course Prerequisites

      Please bring the following tools to the course: pocket calculator, engineer's scale (with 1:20 scale), 12" straight edge, and four colored pencils (red, green, blue, black).

      Optional item is a template with circles, squares and rectangles.

      Course participants will be exposed to Caltrans Standard Plans and Specifications, and are encouraged to review them online at

  • Course Instructors

      Bill Shao, PE, TE, PTOE, City of Los Angeles

      Bill Shao is a Principal Engineer with the City of Los Angeles. Currently the LADOT-lead for LA Metro's Capital Transit Design-Build and City's Capital ATSAC programs, he previously led LADOT's Design, Construction Management, Signal Systems, and ITS programs. Almost a 3-decade veteran with the City, he has been an instructor for Tech Transfer and formerly for LA Metro. An active participant of FHWA and TRB-NCHRP research panels, he holds a MS in Transportation Management from San Jose State University, a MS in Transportation Systems Engineering, and a BS in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Irvine. Mr. Shao is a California-registered Civil Engineer and Traffic Engineer.

      Claude Strayer, PE, RSP1, Senior Associate, Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants

      Mr. Strayer is a Senior Associate in the San Diego office of Fehr & Peers. He has 11 years of experience in the design and implementation of traffic signals and signal systems, signing and striping, street lighting, temporary traffic control as well as pedestrian and bicycle improvements. Claude has completed designs for dozens of agencies, public and private entities, and institutions. He has also served as an adjunct engineering professor at Cuyamaca College in El Cajon, CA. Mr. Strayer graduated from the Northeastern University with a B.S. degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2011, and is a registered Civil Engineer in California, Hawaii, and Arizona. He also is a certified Road Safety Professional (RSP1).

  • Registration Information

      Registration for this course occurs at the TechTransfer training host site. Use the button to the right to directly access the course page and registration portal. You will be asked to create a user account as part of the registration process.

      A confirmation email will be sent to you within two business days of TechTransfer receiving your paid registration.

      If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact the TechTransfer Registrar at (510) 643-4393 or

  • For more information

      To learn more about TechTransfer courses and credits, see their FAQ (

      To learn more about TechTransfer's cancellation, refund, and substitution policies, see How to Enroll (

      Cancellation Policy:

      The cancellation fee for this course is $75. At TechTransfer, there are no refunds for classes with registration fees of $75 or less. For all other classes, you may cancel your enrollment and receive a refund of your registration fee less $75, provided they receive your written request to cancel at least 5 full working days before the class is scheduled to begin. In lieu of canceling your registration, you may (1) transfer your registration to another TechTransfer class, (2) receive a tuition credit for the full amount, useable toward a future class, or (3) send a substitute in your place.

      Note: TechTransfer recommends you discuss any possible problems or online security issues with your IT person before you register for any online classes. If you are worried about connectivity issues, please contact the online training coordinator the week before the class to schedule a time to test your system. If you do not test your system and you have technical issues during a live online class, we will not provide a refund.

LTAP Subsidized

This class is offered at a reduced fee to employees of California's city, county, regional, and tribal public agencies

Course Fee

Standard Rate:

Public Agency Rate:



Course Credit

This course grants:

1.60 CEUs

Upcoming Sessions (0)

[not currently scheduled]


Need More Help?

California LTAP Center

Phone: (562) 985-2872