Lee Highway to Get Emergency Vehicle Preemption System

by ARLnow.com January 17, 2011 at 9:25 am 3,298 13 Comments

The county board is expected to award a contract on Saturday that would install an emergency vehicle preemption (EVP) system down the entire length of Lee Highway, from Rosslyn to Falls Church.

The system would improve the response times of emergency responders by preemptively turning traffic lights red for conflicting traffic in the path of an emergency vehicle.

The $563,902 contract, which includes an $87,384 cost overage contingency, would install the EVP system at 31 traffic signals on Lee Highway. The federal government is providing most of the funding for the project, with Arlington County chipping in about $130,000.

In addition to improving response times for the three fire stations on Lee Highway, the new EVP system would “also provide the infrastructure for a Transit Signal Priority system in the future,” according to the staff report.

EVP systems are currently in place on parts of Glebe Road and Columbia Pike, according to county spokesperson Mary Curtius.

  • ESlater

    Police cars will be able to trigger this as well, so watch for those officers who don’t want to wait at a traffic light.

    You can (most likely illegally) trigger this also, either by running a strobe from your car (http://www.wikihow.com/Trigger-Green-Traffic-Lights) or sometimes by using a universal remote (http://www.metacafe.com/watch/496319/change_traffic_lights_with_a_universal_remote)

    • Bob

      Actually, that is incorrect. Arlington police cars will not have the equipment, only fire apparatus. You can rest easy now knowing that the evil police will not be driving thru the red lights just because they can and want to taunt you with that incredibly thrill that irritates you so much. Grow up.

      • bred

        Don’t think the police won’t have this one day. I can see it know . . . an officer on his/her cell phone, while driving, activates all the green lights to the pizza joint he/she just called on the cell phone while driving in the police car so lunch/dinner won’t be cold when he/she arrives.

  • This is what the CB should be spending money on.

    Not water parks for dogs!

    • charlie


  • JohnW

    This is great. My hometown in Pennsylvania has a system in place since at least the 70s, I think they were a testmarket for it, named Wellco/Radolite system. Whereby a white blinking light was attached adjacent to the regular traffic light. When the police/fire/ambulance unit triggered the system for their route the light would turn green and the white light blinks. The purpose of the white light was to alert regular traffic that an emergency vehicle is coming and get out of the way.
    The vehicles have a radar unit attached to their vehicles to trigger the lights.
    Don’t know if the system is the same one we’re about to use or if it’s a competitor.
    But I wish we’d add the white blinking light to alert drivers.

  • Rick

    Why don’t we get the second half of that system now for everyone else? I had to re-do my commute to avoid lee highway because I was growing tired of stopping at every traffic light at 6am, usually for no cars.

  • Anon

    The County will be installing traffic light receivers for these EVP “Opticom” units (which are already mounted on Arlington’s fire/police vehicles) http://www.gtt.com/Products/Infrared

    I can tell you from personal experience, having driven an ambulance as a volunteer firefighter/EMT in Texas, that the EVP systems do work fairly well. I found that large volumes of traffic tended to decrease the distance at which the signal would be triggered to green (i.e., the more traffic at the light, the closer I had to get in my ambulance for the light to finally trigger green, so I still had to maneuver/honk/siren my way through rush hour traffic at times), but overall, it’s an excellent system that saves precious response time minutes and is sorely needed on this stretch of County road, given the number of fire stations located along it (ACFD Fire Stations 3, 8, and 6 (in Falls Church)). Kudos to the County for putting up the funds for this.

  • Rosslyn

    Sounds like a good idea. On a related note, can they change some/many of the lights on Lee Highway so that after 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., they flash yellow on the main road and red on the side road? And fix the timing of the lights? Traffic is extremely light at night, yet one sits at each light waiting for nothing to happen.

    • bred

      Great idea. My guess is that since Lee Highway is a state highway VDOT is responsible for this. I’d wish that they would fix the overhead lighting on I-395 in Arlington first. That is a serious traffic problem.

      • GeorgeOrwell

        that will be the excuse on why Arlington just can’t do anything smart like that.

  • Jim Breiling

    — When emergency vehicles (EVs) are called and trme can be critical, deploy any available police units to photo motorists who interfere (e.g., do not move out of the way) with the transit of the EVs. with ticketing later.

    — And, yes improve the timing of lights so that vehicles who are proceeding at or slightly below the speed limit can have a series of green lights. Sometimes this has been done, but drivere drive above the speed limit, so get their just desserts of red lights. If timing in in effect for transit without stops when driving at the speed limit, inform motorists of this.

  • Red

    Amazing of the ignorance!! Go hug some trees Arlington


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