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City engineer Justin Bland detailed the "Siloam Springs Mid-Block Crossing Plan" and gained approval from the board of directors during its Feb. 6 meeting.

Because there already is a standardize system in place for crosswalks at traffic lights across the city, this plan's intent is to make it safer for pedestrians crossing streets where there are not traffic signals already controlling traffic. City staff took the Arkansas State Bicycle and Pedestrian plan, but "simplified it for Siloam Springs," Bland said.

The plan identified three crossings that will need appropriate signs and striping that will cost the city $300 each and will be added in the coming year. There are another 19 crosswalks that were identified as arterial streets with heavier traffic that will require an active warning beacon at a cost of $8,600 each. The electric department will install those in 2019 and 2020 and will add the costs to the city's budget during those years.

"By the end of 2020, we should have all these installed across the city," Bland said.

Bland said he took into consideration comments and suggestions from directors during a workshop before the board's Sept. 5 meeting. One of those suggestions was to add speed bumps/tables to slow down motorists, but that won't be part of the plan that was approved.

"I think we saw some positives to this," Bland said. "But the public works guys were a little concerned with maintenance like snow removal and street sweeping. What we're suggesting now is to keep that in as an option, but not to make that the standard."

Another suggestion was about a crosswalk at Lincoln Street, near the softball complex. Because of high traffic, staff reviewed the area and believes it will need a "hybrid beacon," which is also called a "hawk beacon" where a button is pushed that changes lights from yellow to red to alert motorists that a pedestrian is crossing.

"Since (Lincoln Street) is part of the state highway system, we will approach the highway department with the idea of it being a hawk system," Bland said. "If they approve that, we'll go with that, but if they don't, then we will have to do the active warning beacon, which we see elsewhere in town."

Active warning beacons are flashing lights around a diamond-shaped sign. It's also activated by pedestrians pushing a button and will flash for 20 seconds after it's pushed to allow walkers and bike riders time to cross the road safely.

The city looked at making those signs solar powered, but the added cost between $1,500-$2,500 per crossing was not feasible.

"They looked and if this thing is being pushed 50 times a day and the lights are flashing 20 seconds, and what would the cost be," Bland said. "It turns out being about 40 cents per year at wholesale electric costs. To create a return there, it's going to be awhile.

"I think there is going to be some situations where electricity is not available in the vicinity where (solar) makes sense. But at this point, that's not what we're going with."

Director Brad Burns reiterated the need to look at other options for crossing Mount Olive at Alpine Street, which he called a "death trap." He also said he believed it would be better at some of the crossings to have constant flashing lights like he sees on the campus of John Brown University.

"Because it's constantly going, then as people have driven there, they get conditioned," Burns said. "It's a physical reminder and a mental reminder and it changes their pattern and they constantly slow down.

"I don't know if we are giving any consideration out of those 19 to give it the LED lighting where it goes all the time."

Based on Bland's research, using signs with a constant flashing system isn't as effective at warning drivers about pedestrians as a push-button system that only flashes when activated by a pedestrian.

"The research that we've done and is pretty consistent with the different highway departments across the country, we found that drivers actually pay attention more when it's not flashing constantly because they get used to it just flashing," Bland said. "They don't pay as much (attention). When they're driving and it all the sudden it flashes up, that is when they pay attention and they brake. That's kind of the trend nationwide."

Bland also assured Burns that the city will continue to explore different options to make the crossing at Mount Olive safer, but added that the crosswalk plan as presented was simply to create a standardized system that could be followed citywide.

General News on 02/11/2018

Print Headline: Board approves 'Mid-Block Crosswalk Plan'

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