WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- It is only two feet long and made solely of cast aluminum.
simple enough recipe for a South Florida man who was able to use the
material to invent a device that could save lives during the next major
hurricane or tropical storm.
Bob Townsend's invention tackles
the collapsing traffic signal problem Palm Beach County has experienced
during hurricanes like Wilma.
During the storm, Townsend nearly
lost his wife when she blew through an intersection that had lost
traffic signals, missing an oncoming car by inches.
"It was upsetting, an emotional moment. One of those things you go, 'boy!'" said Townsend.
From that moment on, Townsend spent years trying to invent a near hurricane-proof traffic light.
"I never thought I couldn't. It just had to work," said Townsend.
With just a few pieces of metal, Townsend, 60, created and patented a device that can withstand 110 mile per hour winds.
a home designer, was able to created a swivel point that connects the
traffic light to the connecting cable. The swivel design allows the
light to move freely with the wind. Cable designs tend to bounce and
crack off according to Townsend.
Townsend and his wife nearly lost their house and everything they own to fund the idea.
mean we've been through rough times. We've been married forty years and
done the bankruptcy thing. But I guess no risk, no gain," said
The payoff though would come when the Florida
Department of Transportation caught on to the idea. FDOT is now
retrofitting 54 intersections in Palm Beach County and 52 in Broward
"Hopefully it'll cut down on all the confusion
after a storm comes through," said Andrea Pacini, a spokesperson for the
The project could save the state millions of dollars in repair costs after a storm.
Townsend said he truly only has one desire. "Help people save lives. And that's what we're counting on it doing."
FDOT crews will begin work in Palm Beach County at the end of July.
Project managers estimate it will take a few months to complete updating all 54 intersections with the new device.
Jeff Skrzypek, WPTV