Stoplights at more than 30 intersections in Arlington will be equipped with technology that automatically gives emergency vehicles the right of way, something officials say improves response time and makes for safer road conditions. The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a $651,000 contract to Chesapeake Electrical Systems Inc. to install emergency vehicle preemption technology at 31 intersections on Lee Highway. The impacted stoplights go from East Falls Church to Rosslyn.

James Schwartz, the county's fire chief, said such technology gives responders "safe, speedy passage" on roads and also cuts "precious minutes" from travel time.

"Emergency vehicle preemption technology is critical to saving lives," he said.

The County Board consented to the contract without debate.

This technology has already been installed at intersections on Columbia Pike and Glebe Road. The project is being funded with federal dollars, according to a release.

The County Board on Saturday also authorized a contract with the same company to upgrade Arlington's communications network, built in the 1980s.

The eight-month $4.7 million project approved Saturday is the first of three overhaul phases to replace the current network. The estimated cost of the entire project is $20 million.

Once the network is replaced, officials say the county will be better able to reduce emergency response time, maintain traffic signals, improve communications for county facilities and help public safety and transportation agencies monitor large events.

County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman called both measurers "critical infrastructure investments." Construction on both projects is scheduled to begin in March.