Yesterday, crews began installing traffic signals at the intersection of Highway 4 and Big Trees Way/Tom Bell Road in Murphys.

TDS Engineering from Thousand Oaks is the contractor hired by the California Department of Transportation to install the lights.

Today, PG&E is scheduled to turn on the power.

Robert Spradling, Caltrans spokesman, said the goal is to have the lights fully operational by tomorrow.

"If they can't get them on Thursday, then we'll turn them on next week on Wednesday," he said.

Spradling said the lights use 80 percent less electricity than standard traffic signals.

Once the lights become operational, the Highway 4 and Big Trees Way/Tom Bell Road intersection will have the fourth traffic signal in the county, and the first outside Angels Camp.

Angels Camp has signals at highways 49 and 4, at Highway 49 and Murphys Grade Road, and a pedestrian-controlled signal on Murphys Grade Road at the Bret Harte High School parking lot.

The Murphys signal will include left-turn lanes and lights for drivers on Highway 4.

Spradling said Caltrans began watching the Murphys intersection three years ago, as traffic volumes began growing.

"The expense for us to put signals in has to be justified by significant traffic through the area," he said.

A fatality at the intersection in 2001 prompted Caltrans to put in four-way stop signs and a blinking red light as an interim measure, Spradling said.

He said Caltrans had been contacted by four or five residents of Murphys Diggin's a senior mobile-home park on Tom Bell Road saying the stop signs work well and there's no need for a traffic signal.

"But it's the added traffic volumes that warrant the signals," he said.

"They'll be needed in the very near future."

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