Erie, Pa., to Replace Legacy Emergency Vehicle Signal Tech

The council voted this week to expand the technology that allows first responders to switch signals to green in their favor. While some intersections are already equipped, others have systems from the 1960s that no longer work.

by Kevin Flowers, Erie Times-News / April 18, 2019
Shutterstock/Zack Frank

(TNS) — More than 200 intersections in the city of Erie no longer have a functioning emergency-vehicle warning system.

Erie City Council President Jim Winarski would like to see that change.

Council on Wednesday night voted 6-1 for a resolution that supports expanding the traffic light pre-emption systems installed on traffic signals at various intersections in Erie County into the city of Erie.

Those systems have been in place since 2015 and allow medics, firefighters and police to switch the signals to green, and a flashing white light above each signal lets other drivers know that an emergency vehicle is controlling the signal.

The pre-emption systems also replaced the "Relco" system created by Radon Emergency Light Co., which was installed in the 1960s and had not been operable at many intersections for several years.

The Relco system, over the years, became increasingly hard to maintain and find parts for.

City officials have been trying to upgrade or replace systems at Erie intersections since 2011, but have not yet secured funding. Winarski wants the city to find funding for the initiative because Relco "is almost obsolete" in the city, and he believes the system saves lives.

An inoperable Relco system "is really not good for anybody involved," Winarski said, suggesting that the city try to secure grant funding from the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority to fund an expansion of the system.

Councilwoman Liz Allen cast the lone "no" vote. Allen said she was not opposed to Relco, but she wants to explore whether there are other more efficient options, especially since the city is pursuing what's known as smart city technology with the help of the Erie Innovation District.

Smart cities are urban areas that use different forms of electronic data collection, including sensors, to supply information that is then used to efficiently manage assets and resources.

The downtown smart city pilot project was announced in April 2018 and focused on downtown and Perry Square. New LED lighting, video surveillance cameras, and free Wi-Fi were installed in an area encompassing State Street, between Sixth and 12th streets.

©2019 the Erie Times-News (Erie, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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