ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Alpharetta is embarking on a citywide upgrade to its traffic signal system that it hopes will improve response times for fire emergencies.

The City Council approved a contract July 8 for installation of a traffic preemption system that allows emergency fire vehicles to override traffic signals and turn lights to green when responding to a call.

The $300,000 contract with Alabama-based Temple Inc. calls for installation of preemptive systems in cabinets at 100 of the city’s 129 signaled intersections and triggering devices in fire units.

The city’s current traffic preemption system is more than 20 years old, operates at 40 intersections and uses only line-of-sight technology to activate the system. 

The new system will be location-based, uses GPS and promises to be much more efficient at moving traffic through lights upon pre-determined routes. Temple says the updated traffic preemption system technology will result in improved call response time as well as roadway safety for the public and first responders.

Alpharetta Public Safety Director John Robison said funding for the system upgrade was allocated as part of the 2019 and 2020 budgets.

He also said that, unlike preemptive systems in the past, the new technology allows traffic signals to reset almost immediately after emergency vehicles have cleared the intersection.

Back some eight years ago, Johns Creek officials shelled out $150,000 on software to adjust preemptive signals it had installed a year earlier at 10 intersections. Before the software upgrade, signals were taking up to 10 minutes to recalibrate to the proper timing, a delay that proved cataclysmic in some parts of the city during rush hour.

Those software upgrades are still working, the city reported last week.

Other cities are following the move to preemptive signaling.

Earlier this year, the City of Dunwoody partnered with DeKalb County to install preemptive signal equipment on two firetrucks and at two intersections along North Peachtree Road — one at Peeler Road and another at Tilly Mill Road.

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