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City considers emergency vehicle warning system
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An emergency vehicle preemption system could be in the future for the city’s lighted intersections.

“As we upgrade our lights around the city, we want to put detectors on the lights,” said city administrator Bill Brock. “It’s a special tone that it picks up. It will be up to the police, fire, ambulance, sheriff’s department, and highway patrol to install it in their vehicles to trip that light before they ever get to it.”

The information was presented to McMinnville’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

The system would allow emergency vehicles to manipulate traffic signals in their path, giving the emergency vehicle the right of way. The system reduces response times and improves traffic safety by reducing the chance of a collision with a motorist who may enter the intersection on a green light, but did not hear, or see, the approaching emergency vehicle.

There are 23 signalized intersections targeted. Exact cost to place those devices at the intersections and within each of the city’s emergency vehicles is unknown. However, it could be in excess of $100,000, if numbers obtained by McMinnville Public Works director Brad Hennessee are accurate.

Hennessee said a TDOT representative estimated the price at $20,000 to $30,000 per intersection, but other officials have said the price has since come down to $5,000 to $6,000 per intersection.

At $5,000, the devices alone would be $115,000. That cost does not include the transponder units that are required per emergency vehicle. In order to manipulate the lights, emergency vehicles must be fitted with transponder units.

“We have been told that transponder units are about $500 per vehicle,” said Hennessee. 

Some of the intersections are too outdated for the new technology. The city has plans to upgrade the intersection lights along Highway 70S Bypass.

McMinnville Police Chief Bryan Denton says the system would be a welcomed addition. 

“Intersections, especially light-controlled intersections, produce some of the more destructive collisions we deal with,” said Denton. “Anytime we can reduced the risk by taking reasonable safety precautions it is a good thing. As the city grows and traffic increases proactive measures like this, if exercised appropriately, are welcome.”

The emergency vehicle preemption system is in the discussion phase. No decision has been made.