Greenwich DPW seeks green light,0,6321630.story?coll=green-news-local-headlines

By Martin B. Cassidy
Staff Writer

April 12, 2004

The Department of Public Works is requesting $155,300 from the Representative Town Meeting to block equipment that could let motorists tap into the system fire trucks and ambulances use to switch traffic lights from red to green while rushing to emergency calls.

The RTM will vote on the appropriation at its regular meeting at 8 p.m. today at Central Middle School, 10 Indian Rock Lane.

Recent sales of mobile infrared transmitters to the public via Web sites prompted town officials' concerns and the request, DPW Commissioner Marcos Madrid said. The devices allow motorists to change some traffic signals from red to green and cost less than $400 on a number of Web sites.

"You can now buy this equipment on the Internet and we could have people going up and down The Avenue changing lights from red to green," Madrid said. "We want to protect the system."

There is no evidence that motorists have used the equipment in town, he said.

RTM Assistant Moderator Joan Caldwell supported for the appropriation last week, saying safety should be the town's top priority. She noted that it would be difficult to detect breaches of the system.

"If you can get all the traffic lights to work in your favor on the Boston Post Road from Cos Cob to (Port Chester, N.Y.), you could be in Tarry's Lodge for a beer in nothing flat," Caldwell said.

A limited number of intersections in town are vulnerable, and most town traffic lights respond only if a numeric code is transmitted in the signal, Madrid said. While fire and emergency medical vehicles in Greenwich use the transmitter technology, police vehicles do not. If the money is approved, the town will purchase and install equipment from 3M Co., including 46 receivers on traffic-control boxes and 92 traffic signals throughout town, Madrid said.

"Most of the traffic signals of newer vintage can be coded," Madrid said, and noted the old equipment was due to be replaced soon.

Mark Dawson, chairman of the RTM's Town Services Committee and a career firefighter for the Cos Cob Fire Department, said the committee voted unanimously to recommend the upgrade to the full RTM.

Motorists using the devices could cause major problems, he said.

"We don't want people using those devices for their own personal gain," Dawson said. "This will assure that only people in the emergency system will be able to change the lights."

Copyright 2004, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.

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