Drivers and pedestrians take note: Starting this Wednesday, crews will begin turning on five new pedestrian hybrid beacon crosswalk systems along Fourth Plain Boulevard. The new beacon lights will be activated over a three-day period, working from west to east, at the following existing crosswalk locations on Fourth Plain:
- near the T Street intersection
- at or near the Z Street intersection
- at or near the Fairmont Street intersection
- at or near the Neals Lane intersection
- at or near the Todd Road/Rossiter Lane intersection
The City is upgrading the five crosswalks, which had previously relied on flashing yellow overhead lights to alert vehicle drivers to pedestrians, thanks to $360,000 in state safety grants.
Northeast Electric, the City’s contractor for this project, started work in March, and City of Vancouver Operations signal crews will be activating the hybrid beacons, starting with the T Street crosswalk and heading east along Fourth Plain. Turning on each new hybrid beacon requires both physical work at the system controller on the street and electronic synchronization of the beacon with the City’s traffic system. All new pedestrian beacons on Fourth Plain should be operating by the end of this week. Signs will be posted to alert drivers to the traffic changes ahead.
Construction is also underway to install two new pedestrian hybrid beacons at crosswalks on East Mill Plain – one west of Andresen Road to replace an overhead flashing yellow beacons and one at Southeast 157th Avenue where there currently is no pedestrian crosswalk.
The new hybrid beacons, with their series of yellow and red lights, have been shown to command more attention from drivers than traditional yellow overhead beacons. In addition, the new hybrid beacons, which are being used across the country, provide pedestrians with clear direction on when and how to proceed across the crosswalk.
When encountering a hybrid beacon system, drivers and pedestrians should remember to follow all the traditional rules for traffic and pedestrian signs and signals.
PEDESTRIANS: Pedestrians can expect the new beacons to function much the same as traditional pedestrian crossings at fully signalized intersections, with some additional help. When pedestrians push the button to cross, the beacon system will show a WALK symbol when it’s safe to cross, a flashing DON’T WALK hand and countdown clock as time remaining to cross runs out, and a solid DON’T WALK hand to indicate when pedestrians must stay out of the crosswalk and allow vehicle traffic to proceed. The added help comes in the form of a spoken command to walk, wait or clear the intersection if an emergency vehicle is coming.
DRIVERS: Drivers can expect a series of yellow and red lights from the beacons. Each light in the series should be followed just as if it were a standalone yellow or red light. For example: The overhead beacons remain dark until activated by a pedestrian. When someone pushes the WALK button, drivers will first see the beacon flash yellow, which means go slow and prepare to stop. Then the beacon will turn solid yellow, a caution again to prepare to stop. Next the beacon will turn solid red, meaning drivers must stop and let pedestrians cross. Finally, the beacons will change to an alternating, flashing red, which means drivers must stop as they would at any flashing red light, look to be sure all is clear, then proceed when safe to do so.
There already are another two hybrid beacon crosswalks in the City of Vancouver: one along Fort Vancouver Way, near Clark College, and the second at St. John’s Road, north of state Highway 500. More information can be found in the Traffic Signals and Signs section of the www.cityofvancouver.us/streets webpage.
Loretta Callahan, Public Information/Community Relations, Department of Public Works, 360-487-8255, email@example.com