News

New Pedestrian Flashing Beacons, LED Signs to Make Crossing Camino del Rio (US 550) Safer

September 16, 2011 - Southwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 5 - Crossing features a first in CDOT’s southwest region.

DURANGO – Pedestrians attempting to cross busy Camino del Rio (US 550) at 7th Street now have a safer crossing option. New solar-powered flashing yellow beacons and LED signs have been installed at the crosswalk, thanks to a group of community organizations that pulled together resources.

Improvements to pedestrian crossing was a need identified by adjacent Pueblo Community College’s Southwest Colorado Community College (SCCC) East Campus due in part to recent enrollment. In addition, there has been increased pedestrian crossing at 7th Street by tenants of The Commons building, patrons of nearby businesses and out-of-town visitors. The existing crosswalk between the Transit Center/downtown and The Commons crosses five lanes of traffic on Camino del Rio—now, that crosswalk is reinforced by pedestrian crossing lights.

“The goal of the college was to increase the safety of our students and staff who used the existing crosswalk multiple times per day,” Lynn Urban, Dean of SCCC-East said. “We have been encouraging students to take public transit to get to school. This new flashing beacon will make it safer.”

Last fall, SCCC initiated the conversation with the Colorado Department of Transportation about making the crossing safer. CDOT traffic engineers designed the flashing beacon and sign solution—a first in Region 5, which consists of 15 counties in southwest and south-central Colorado. CDOT would install and maintain the system; SCCC’s job was to find the finances to pay for it.

In addition to money contributed by the college, the City of Durango’s Multi-Modal Division was the first partner to jump on board. Within a few months, funds were also committed by the Durango Adult Education Center, The Commons and the La Plata Electric Round-up Fund.

“This was a fun project to pull together,” said Teresa Malone, Public Relations Coordinator with SCCC-East, and overseer of the crosswalk project. “Everyone I talked to agreed there was a need to increase pedestrian safety.”

This pedestrian crosswalk differs from those at an intersection where a traffic signal is present. The system at 7th Street does not include a vehicular signal that turns red. Rather, the solar-powered white lights (LEDs) encircling the “pedestrian walk” symbol sign begin flashing after a button is pushed. This alerts motorists to the need to yield to pedestrians using the crosswalk. A few seconds later, the yellow flashing beacon indicates to pedestrians that it is OK to cross. However, as with any other unsignalized crosswalk, the pedestrian must obtain eye contact with motorists and be assured that motorists are stopping or are stopped. (When activated, the pedestrian crossing will be coordinated with the traffic signal at College Drive to reduce the number of vehicles approaching the crosswalk when the button is activated.)

“This pedestrian crossing feature is not to be treated like an intersection where vehicles are stopped by a red light,” CDOT Traffic & Safety Engineer Mike McVaugh said. “The LED signs are there to better alert motorists of pedestrian presence and the need to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk— once the yellow crossing beacon begins to flash, pedestrians still need to exercise caution when crossing.”

Amber Blake, the City of Durango’s Multi-Modal coordinator, echoes this warning.

“The public needs to be educated on how to use this crosswalk,” states Blake. “Pedestrians do need to wait those few seconds until the yellow beacon begins to flash, and then make sure cars are stopping for them.” Blake designed flyers (see attachment) and posters instructing pedestrians on how to use the crosswalk; these will be hung up around The Commons and the Transit Center.

The signals have been active since early September, and pedestrians and motorists alike will need to get used to this new safety feature.

“We couldn’t have done this without CDOT’s help,” said Malone. “They have been a great partner the whole way.”

 

Contacts for more information:

Dr. Lynn Urban, East Campus Dean
970.247.2929, ext. 7216
[email protected]

Teresa Malone, Coordinator of Grants & Public Relations
970.247.2929, ext. 7238
[email protected]

Amber Blake, City of Durango Multi-Modal Coordinator
970.375.4949
[email protected]

Nancy Shanks, CDOT Public Relations
(970) 385-1428 or (970) 749-3579
[email protected]
www.coloradodot.info

Photo of Pedestrian Signs/Beacon at: http://www.coloradodot.info/news/media-room.html