A High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk – or HAWK – beacon is now operating at the Glacier Highway Walmart entrance, one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the Lemon Creek area.
The HAWK signal has been a priority of the state Department of Transportation, Juneau police and city and borough as well as the Tlingit and Haida Central Council. It was triggered Tuesday, and traffic stopped as some of the citizens and Juneau officials who worked on the project took a safe walk across the road.
For years, Genevieve Cadiente has been a school crossing guard for nearby Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School. She helped get the ball rolling with a letter to Juneau Rep. Beth Kerttula.
“I had stood here for many hours, you know, watching some of the people try to cross,” Cadiente said, “and we’ve held these flags up and nobody’s stopped for us.”
Then in December, two 15-year-old girls were hit by a car while dashing across the street. Deb Temple was a passenger in the car.
“It was about 3:30 on a sideways rainy day,” she said. “They were young women wearing dark clothing, and we were headed towards Costco, and we did not see them.”
The girls have recovered from their injuries. Tempel said the accident catapulted her into action for a lighted crosswalk at the Walmart entrance.
DOT Southeast Region Director Al Clough invited Tempel and Cadiente to push the button yesterday to activate the new HAWK signal.
“OK. Give that a push, let’s see what happens,” Clough said, as the signal beeped. “You can see the yellow light starting to flash. The traffic’s slowing down. The yellow light is full, now it’s red and we can go.”
After the standard time has elapsed (3.5 feet per second), the double red lights begin to flash. If all pedestrians have crossed, motorists can proceed on the flashing red lights.
You can see a visual explanation of the signals at this State DOT&PF webpage.
The HAWK crosswalk at Walmart is the second in Juneau. The first was installed at the Mendenhall Loop Road entrance to Floyd Dryden Middle School. Transportation studies show that no other crosswalk signal works better for alerting drivers to pedestrians.
The original traffic signal at the Walmart entrance was decommissioned in 2008 during construction of the Sunny Point interchange. Another traffic light was installed just north of Walmart at the Egan Drive access road.
DOT data shows approximately 12,000 vehicles drive this section of Glacier Highway every day. A study last June over a period of 12 hours indicates 471 pedestrians crossed the street at various points, with only about a third using an actual crosswalk.
The HAWK signal cost about $200,000 and was paid for by the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program. Clough says the installation cost less because the light poles and utilities were already in place.