Saturday, July 6, 2013
New crosswalk in Uptown will be first in DFW area
Unlike these pedestrian signals that only require drivers to yield, the HAWK will completely stop traffic for pedestrians to cross.
DALLAS Living right off McKinney Avenue and Worthington Street in Uptown for eight years, Rev and Sam Crouse know how difficult crossing McKinney can be during rush hour and on the weekends.
“It’s very dangerous,” Rev Crouse said. “We have a hard time getting to restaurants or anything across the street.”
The Crouses jokingly equated crossing McKinney Avenue to playing the 1980s arcade game Frogger, but they said there have been instances when they did feel unsafe crossing the street.
But, soon the Crouses and other pedestrians in Uptown will have a safer alternative on the long stretch between the Routh Street and Oak Grove Avenue traffic signals.
Beginning in early June, crews started work on a high-intensity activated crosswalk, or HAWK, which costs about $60,000 for parts, construction, and labor. The city-funded pedestrian crosswalk, expected to be finished this month and situated midblock on McKinney Avenue between Worthington and Allen streets, will be the first of its kind in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said Matt Tilke, senior engineer for Dallas’ Department of Street Services.
The technology itself is not new, Tilke said. Several HAWKs have been in use for years in other cities such as Austin, Boulder, Colo., and Tucson, Ariz.
In 2010, early plans for the George W. Bush Presidential Center called for a HAWK across Boedeker Street on SMU Boulevard. However, at the time the crosswalk was not a state-approved device. The Legislature did not add the pedestrian device to the Texas Transportation Code until summer 2011, and later that year, the Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices was amended to include it.
A different kind of signal
Although the new pedestrian signal in Uptown is the first HAWK in the area, the city is already home to other types of pedestrian signals. Cedar Springs Road near Oak Lawn Avenue and the crossing in front of the Perot Museum have devices called rectangular rapid flashing beacon signals in place.
Unlike these pedestrian signals that only require drivers to yield, the HAWK will completely stop traffic for pedestrians to cross, Tilke said.
To operate the HAWK, pedestrians walk up to the signal and press a button. An arm stretching over the street like a traditional traffic light will then begin flashing yellow to signal motorists to slow down. After switching to solid yellow, the signal will turn solid red to bring motorists to a complete stop, allowing pedestrians to cross. Finally, the red signal lights will begin to flash to alert motorists that once the pedestrians in their lane have passed, they are free to proceed.
The crosswalk signal will also be equipped with a controller box to coordinate it with the neighboring traffic signals, Tilke said.
The city views the crosswalk as a positive addition to Uptown, Tilke said, especially with the Trolley and the volume of pedestrians walking in the area. They chose the spot on McKinney Avenue to be the first HAWK site in Dallas after a study found the area could use a pedestrian signal, though Tilke acknowledged that need can vary.
“At different times of the day, the necessity for the signal is very different,” Tilke said. “There are some times of day when there’s no traffic, and it’s like tumbleweeds, and there are other times of the day it’s almost impossible to cross the street.”
Enhancing the pedestrian experience is a goal for Uptown Dallas, Inc., the managing group of the Uptown Public Improvement District, executive director Amy Gibson said.
When construction along Cedar Springs Road is complete, Gibson said, crosswalks will be added to all of the intersections between Carlisle and Olive streets. The crosswalks at traffic signals will also include pedestrian countdown timers.
She said at the moment there aren’t any plans to install any more HAWKs in Uptown, but the group is talking with people in the area to determine possible sites for the devices in the future.
Dallas’ newly sworn-in District 14 city councilmember, Philip Kingston, said there is an increasing demand for a pedestrian-friendly experience in Uptown because of a growing number of residents and the popularity of local entertainment areas.
“One of the challenges that we are dealing with in becoming a more walkable city is that we focused for so long on how to get cars from one place to another as fast as possible,” Kingston said. “We have not spent as much time thinking about ‘How do we let people walk around enough here without getting run over?’”
He said it’s not just Uptown that could benefit from pedestrian crosswalks. Other areas in the city with high volumes of pedestrian traffic, such as Henderson and Greenville avenues, are sites that could use lighted pedestrian crosswalks.
Tilke said other than the HAWK that is in the plan for the Oak Cliff streetcar project, there are no plans in the near future for other devices in the city.
So for now, the HAWK in Uptown will be the only device in the city. However, the device will be a viable option for future pedestrian crossings in the city, he said.
“We are working on developing a standard set of criteria for how we warrant or how we decide which particular pedestrian treatment would be used at any giving location. There will be more [HAWKs] in the future. Where exactly they’ll be — we are not certain of that right now,” he said.
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