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January 8, 2012
The Road Commission for Oakland County has reached an agreement that could ultimately lead to the installation of more High-intensity Activated crosswalk (HAWK) beacons at roundabouts in the Northwestern Connector project area in West Bloomfield Township and Farmington Hills.
The agreement, reached Thursday, is between RCOC and local attorney Richard Bernstein and is intended to enhance safety at pedestrian crossings at roundabouts, including for blind or otherwise disabled individuals. It is based on a study completed recently by Western Michigan University and North Carolina State University.
“Safety is our top priority,” stated RCOC Board Chairman Eric Wilson. “That includes the safety of all road system users, including pedestrians. We're pleased to be on the cutting edge of new pedestrian-safety advancements, like the HAWK crosswalk beacons.”
The study reviewed two types of pedestrian crosswalk beacons installed by RCOC at two roundabouts on Maple Road in West Bloomfield Township. It concludes that both are beneficial, but that the HAWK beacon provided more benefit for pedestrians.
RCOC has agreed to seek Federal Highway Administration and Michigan Department of Transportation approval to install HAWK beacons at the roundabout at the intersection of 14 Mile and Farmington roads, as well as at any future multi-lane roundabouts constructed as part of the Northwestern Connector project.
RCOC installed the HAWK beacons at the Maple Road/Drake Road roundabout and rectangular rapid-flashing beacons at the pedestrian crosswalks at the Maple Road/Farmington Road intersection. The HAWK beacons were installed in 2009, and the RRFBs were installed in 2010.
The two universities issued their report on the crosswalk beacons in October of this year.
“We wanted to find out which of these pedestrian crosswalk beacons was more beneficial, and this study has done that for us,” Wilson stated.
The United States Access Board is also reviewing the issue of pedestrian crossings of roundabouts. The Access Board is an independent federal agency devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities. The board develops and maintains design criteria for the built environment.
The study concluded that the HAWK beacons were more effective at reducing crossing delays for both sighted and blind pedestrians than the RRFBs.
“The analyses presented in this report,” the study reads, “offers evidence that the installation of (HAWK beacons) … reduced delays and crossing risk for blind participants at both the two-lane and three-lane crosswalks at the Maple and Drake roundabout.”
Additionally, the report pointed out that driver-response rates were greater at the HAWK beacons than at the RRFBs.
The Northwestern Connector project is a partnership of RCOC, MDOT, West Bloomfield Township and the City of Farmington Hills, and is intended to help relieve traffic congestion caused by the ending of Northwestern Highway at Orchard Lake Road, by moving traffic in the general direction of Northwestern Highway (north-westerly).
The Road Commission has submitted the report and its comments to the Access Board for its consideration regarding pedestrian-crossing designs. The Access Board's decision will impact pedestrian crossings at roundabouts across the country and will determine if additional HAWK beacons may be installed.
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