First responders prepare for closure of Cecil Ashburn Drive with new traffic control tech

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Technology installed in the Hampton Cove area will help first responders get to you faster in an emergency.

Huntsville Fire and Rescue Chief Howard McFarlen says the new equipment will be installed before the closure of Cecil Ashburn Drive.

"Early on, all of the public safety agencies, Huntsville fire, Huntsville police, HEMSI sat down and talked and brainstormed of what this would do other than just slow down traffic. We looked at any areas of concern we thought we might have and how to address them. One of the things we came up with is traffic preemption," said McFarlen.

The expansion of traffic preemption technology is expected to make up for delays caused by the Cecil Ashburn project

"We have expanded it to HEMSI," said McFarlen. "They've got it on several of their vehicles and I know they'll have it on the ones responding from that area that's stationed over there. We've had it on several of our trucks and we are putting it on several more that we need to go back and forth."

This technology is already being used to help response time in other areas of the city near the downtown fire station on Clinton and the Jeff Road station near Madison.

"You basically have a thing that goes on the traffic light and it waits for radio signal it receives from a unit on a vehicle. When we turn on our emergency lights, it automatically changes lights anywhere in the direction they're going. From GPS signals, it knows where that truck is, how fast it's traveling, and which direction it's going. So it changes the light before the truck gets there to get traffic out of the way."

Officials hope that as the city continues to grow, they will be able to add more of this technology throughout the city. And although there is no price tag on safety, there is on this technology. The equipment for a traffic light cost $5,000 and the equipment for each truck is around $4,000.

"One day it would be great if we had the preemption on every major intersection and all of our emergency equipment. I think we are going that way a little bit at a time but it is like everything else. It's just budgets and dollars and trying to put the priorities in place," said McFarlen.

 

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