CATEGORY: Tupelo Stories



By Marty Russell

Daily Journal

Emergency vehicles in Tupelo may soon get the green light.

In an attempt to improve safety for both emergency services personnel and motorists, the city soon will begin testing a new device that allows emergency vehicles such as ambulances, fire trucks and police cars to pass through intersections under a green traffic light while crossing traffic is halted by a red light.

“It’s a tried and proven system in many larger cities,” Mayor Jack Marshall said. “We are working with the hospital to get it installed.”

The move comes after a series of accidents involving emergency vehicles that occurred in the city last year.

The system consists of a special receiver connected to the circuit controlling traffic signals at intersections. A transmitter, called an emitter, is located on the roof of the emergency vehicle.

When an emergency vehicle approaches an intersection, the emitter sends a signal to the receiver to switch the light to green in the direction the vehicle is headed. By doing so, traffic that would normally be crossing the vehicle’s path gets a red light.

“It gives the emergency vehicle the green light and red lights for all the other directions,” Marshall explained.

Johnny Timmons, Water & Light Department director, said the signal from the emitter can be picked up from about three-fourths of a mile away.

Choosing intersections

Representatives of the city’s fire and police departments as well as North Mississippi Medical Center have been meeting in recent weeks to decide which intersections in the city should get the devices.

“They studied all the traffic lights in the city and each came up with their Top 20 list of intersections,” Marshall said. Those three lists were then combined into one list of 20 intersections. “Ironically, 15 of the those on the final list all three picked.”

Marshall said the targeted intersections are all major crossings in the city.

“They were all on major thoroughfares going east and west, north and south,” he said.

The city has agreed to experiment, however, with just one intersection while it attempts to get a grant from the state Department of Transportation to fund the other intersections.

The receivers for each intersection cost $5,000 each, while the emitters for each vehicle will cost an additional $1,000.

Equipment already has arrived to convert the city’s busy Crosstown intersection to the new system and Fire Engine No. 2 and a rescue truck, both at Fire Station No. 1, will be equipped with emitters.

“They use Crosstown frequently,” Marshall said of the reason for using those vehicles from the downtown fire station to test the equipment.

Crosstown is the intersection of Main and Gloster streets.

John Dawson, a North Mississippi Medical Center vice president who has been working with the city on the project, said the hospital is waiting to see if the city’s grant application is successful and can be used to fund emitters for six ambulances. However, he said, even if the state money is not forthcoming, the hospital is likely to purchase the emitters eventually.

“They may be phased in,” Dawson said. “One or two this year and one or two the next. But we have made a commitment to work with the city on it.”

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