New Kent traffic signals installed with emergency preemption system

Brad Tansey

Jim Bowling, city engineer, said the new traffic signals in Kent will be installed with an emergency preemption system, which is designed to help emergency vehicles navigate through traffic faster.

“It really boils down to safety,” Bowling said “safety of the emergency response vehicles, safety of the traveling public. The shorter the emergency response time the fire department and EMS has, the more chance that people will have to be helped.”

Emergency vehicles are equipped with detectors that send a signal to the detector on the traffic pole, which allows the traffic light to be green. The current detectors around the city have been replaced to better serve the emergency vehicles.

“When they have an emergency, they’ll turn (the detector) on and proceed through the intersection depending on which direction they’re coming,” said Jon Giaquinto, Kent senior engineer. “If they’re going northbound it will provide a green (light) for that northbound movement, so any vehicles stopped at the intersection can start flowing.

“By the time the emergency vehicle gets there, it should be clear for them to get through the intersection.”

The emergency system has been installed throughout the city, with some specific locations along State routes 59, 43 and 261.

Giaquinto said there have been some minor issues regarding detector locations with the new installations but hopes to have them resolved in the next few weeks.

“There’s probably a handful of locations that we need to move detectors to get better visibility for the emergency vehicle,” Giaquinto said.

Along with new detectors, Bowling said the city will begin using a new “traffic control center” to help regain traffic flow after an emergency vehicle alters the schedule. He anticipates the new system to be running within a couple months.

“We can adjust detection for vehicles and timing and phasing to really minimize the delay just by using the technology in the signals,” Bowling said. “The system is brand new to the city.”

The new program will slowly regain normal traffic flow once an emergency vehicle turns the detectors on.

“The smooth, continuous flow of traffic, especially on (State route) 59, is essential for visitors, students and employees to get to their jobs, schools and downtown Kent,” Bowling said. “This system has to be running and smooth so you don’t perceive there’s a problem to get to your job.”

Contact Brad Tansey at [email protected].