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LODDs spur Va. town to get emergency traffic light controls

The Opticom Public Safety Traffic Pre-emption System will be installed on traffic signals at 22 intersections in the town

By Janelle Rucker
The Roanoke Times

ROCKY MOUNT, Va. — By June, the town’s public safety employees will have a system to control traffic when they’re on their way to an emergency, like the late fire chief and vice mayor Posey Dillon once envisioned.

The town council approved $270,000 in contracts Monday night to install the Opticom Public Safety Traffic Pre-emption System on traffic signals at 22 intersections in the town.

A device will also be installed in 30 first-response vehicles that will automatically give them the green light, while stopping others from entering the intersection.

Dillon first proposed the technology a few years ago, but the price tag kept the council from approving it.

In July, Dillon and firefighter Danny Altice were killed answering a call in Union Hall when the fire engine Dillon was driving was hit by a Ford Escape at Old Franklin Turnpike and School Board Road.

The driver of the Ford had the green light.

“It’s a shame it’s the result of a tragedy we suffered nine months ago,” but good can come from a tragedy, said Mayor Steve Angle of the pre-emption system.

Where cost was a roadblock before, the community made sure it wasn’t a problem this time.

Local businessmen started the Lights for Life fundraiser soon after the crash and have raised more than $275,000 in donations, Town Manager James Ervin said.

Of that, the town will receive $150,000 to help with expenses.

The rest will come from grant money and funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation, said Ervin.

“There’s no way this would’ve happened without the community,” Angle said.

The rest of the money raised will go to equip intersections and emergency vehicles outside town limits in Franklin County.

The county board of supervisors has also pledged to add money to donations to purchase the equipment.

For more information on the Opticom Public Safety Traffic Pre-emption System, visit the Global Traffic Technologies website.

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