HAWK Crosswalk System Takes Off

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The so-called High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) at 4th and Main streets in Ketchum that’s supposed to keep Valley pedestrians safer is complete. The HAWK system and pedestrian scramble crossing at Sun Valley Road and Main Street wrapped up construction July 8. And there’s more to come.

During this first phase, both systems will be synchronized. The second phase will include synchronization of the traffic lights on 1st and Main streets and 5th and Main streets to allow for more optimal traffic flow through the four intersections.

HAWK signals are pedestrian-activated traffic control devices that create more spacing between pedestrians and drivers. The system works similar to other pedestrian crossings at signals. Pressing crossing buttons activates flashing lights, signalizing vehicles to stop and allowing pedestrians to cross safely. According to a 2010 study by the Federal Highway Administration, systems like this can reduce vehicle-versus-pedestrian crashes by 69% and overall traffic crashes by 29%.

For a driver, the HAWK signal appears differently than other stop lights. At rest, HAWKs remain dark and drivers continue en route. Once triggered, it will then go through a series of yellow and red sequences requiring motorists to slow down and stop. When the pedestrian phase is complete, the HAWK will go dark again, allowing motorists to continue through the intersection.

The HAWK signal will synchronize with the signal at Sun Valley Road and Main Street, where the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) will be converting the stop light to a “pedestrian scramble” stop light.

A pedestrian scramble is a redesigned traffic signal that stops all vehicular traffic movements, thereby creating a pedestrian-only phase (or time) for pedestrians to cross the intersection in any direction, including diagonally, at the same time. Pedestrian scramble crossings enhance the safety and mobility of pedestrians, although wait times can be longer. This redesign eliminates the right turn on red that is allowed at most intersections, but enhances the safety of pedestrians in that no vehicles move through the intersection while pedestrians cross.

The HAWK project was funded by the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency, in partnership with the Idaho Transportation Department.

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