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The Oakland Press
By Jerry Wolffe
March 28, 2009
The Road Commission for Oakland County has reached an agreement on installing two forms of pedestrian-activated crosswalk signals at roundabouts in West Bloomfield Township.
The agreement between the road commission and plaintiffs was the result of a federal lawsuit filed August 14, 2007, on behalf of three people with disabilities.
“This will spare people from being injured and might even save lives,” said Farmington Hills attorney Richard Bernstein, who filed the first-of- its-kind lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts issued a 43-page outline late Thursday to build the High Intensity Activated Crosswalk system, commonly known as the HAWK system, at the roundabout at West Maple and Drake roads.
A second newer signal system — termed the RRFB, or Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon — will be installed at the roundabout of West Maple and Farmington roads in West Bloomfield Township.
Under the HAWK system, the county will put a signal light, which can be activated by a pedestrian, at each entry point to the roundabout.
Pushing the button will turn a signal light to red to stop traffic, allowing someone who is blind or physically disabled to more safely cross the roundabout.
In addition, a chirping sound will emit from the traffic poles so a blind individual can know where one is located.
“No other city or town should build a roundabout until the results come in on the success of the HAWK system,” Bernstein said.
Green Bay, Wis., stopped building roundabouts when it heard about the Michigan case, he said.
Bernstein, who is blind, was thrilled that the work was to begin as soon as possible on the system.
“We really enjoyed working with the county road commission,” he said. “This is another example of how Oakland County is going to be a leader of traffic-signal technology.”
“We could have just done the bare minimum and put in the HAWK system at Drake and done nothing more, but we genuinely want to find a good solution, so we went out and researched and found this additional system and we proposed trying the additional system as well,” said road commission spokesman Craig Bryson.
The road commission will let bids on the Drake Road signal system on June 9 with construction to be completed by July 13, the court order said.
The Farmington Road project is to be completed in May 2010, according to the court.
It is estimated installation of the two different safety systems at the two intersections along West Maple Road may cost as much as $1 million, said Bryson.
Testing on the effectiveness of the system will be conducted before and after the HAWK system is installed at Drake and West Maple roads for at least two months, Bryson said.
Similar before-and-after tests will be conducted at the Farmington Road and West Maple Road roundabout, he added.
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