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14 Kirkland crosswalks to get flashing beacons, including near schools
It is six-inches wide and two-and-a-half inches tall. And with the help of some well-placed white pavement markings and well-crafted sheet metal, it has the power to halt up to 96 percent of the two-ton machines that encounter it, according to an August 2010 study by the Federal Highway Administration.
Transportation engineers call it a Rapid Flashing Beacon or RFB for short. This month, Kirkland is adding six more of these safety devices near schools, thanks to the streets levy voters approved in the Nov. 6, 2012 election. Kirkland’s Capital Improvement Program is funding four more of these improvements.
Led by the City Council’s 2013 Crosswalk Initiative, flashing beacons will, by the end of this year, be alerting drivers of pedestrian presence at up to 14 crosswalks throughout the city.
This is the first phase of a City Council goal for the levy that will fund the construction — as well as the upgrade — of safety devices at up to 50 crosswalks throughout the city.
“Our city is already one of the most walkable in the nation,” said Deputy Mayor Doreen Marchione, chair of the Council’s Public Works, Parks and Human Services Committee, “But our citizens voted to make our streets and sidewalks even safer when they passed the streets levy. The city promised quick results and installing these flashing beacons throughout the city delivers on that promise.”
To expedite progress toward accomplishing the crosswalk goal, Kirkland’s leaders leveraged in 2013 all of the $600,000 in levy funding they had dedicated to crosswalks in 2013 and 2014.
Each of these devices costs $35,000 to $60,000 for equipment and installation — depending on its location and whether the surrounding tree canopy allows for solar power. That is about the best bang for your pedestrian safety bucks that you’re going to get, said Bruce Friedman, transportation specialist for the Federal Highway Administration.
“They cost a lot less than the devices you have to put out on the roadway,” Friedman said. “Compared to full signalization, they are a very cost-effective way of getting pedestrians across the street safely.”
To determine which crosswalks most need the flashing beacons, city engineers devised criteria to maximize the benefit of the levy dollars: Is it replacing a non-working crosswalk lighting system, for example. Is the crosswalk on an arterial street? How much traffic passes by the crosswalk? How fast is the traffic going? How close is the crosswalk to a school?
By design, many of these flashing beacons have been —or will be — installed near schools. Students from Peter Kirk Elementary, for example, will directly benefit from the flashing beacons at the Market Street and 15th Avenue crosswalk. The beacons at Northeast 68th Street and 111th Avenue Northeast will help protect students making crossings to the International Community School and Lakeview Elementary.
The transportation manager of Lake Washington School District thinks these safety devices could help spawn all sorts of positive change: reducing school drop-off congestion as well as students’ mental alertness.
“One of the reasons [parents] don’t want [their children] walking to school is they don’t want them crossing busy streets,” said Jeff Miles, district transportation manager. “My personal belief is that kids will do better [in school] with the fresh air and exercise from walking. I can’t imagine these [flashing beacons] will be anything but helpful for that.”
For the principal of Alexander Graham Bell Elementary School, the benefit is more immediate.
“Traffic that moves through our school zone is always on the forefront of our minds,” said Heidi Paul, principal of A.G. Bell Elementary. “Dozens of students use the crossing on 116th. As a principal, I greatly support the installation of rapid reflective flashing beacons in order to improve crossing visibility, slow cars, and more effectively stop drivers when students cross.”
RFB crosswalks funded by the streets levy and built this summer include:
• Market Street and 15th Avenue
• Northeast 116th Street at 110th Avenue Northeast
• Northeast 116th Street at 113th Avenue Northeast
• Northeast 68th Street at 111th Avenue Northeast
• 124th Avenue Northeast at Northeast 137th Street
• 124th Avenue Northeast at Northeast 140th Street
RFB crosswalks funded by the Capital Improvement Program and built/being built this summer include:
• 108th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 53rd Street
• 100th Avenue Northeast north of Brookhaven Park
• 100th Avenue Northeast south of Brookhaven Park
RFB crosswalks funded by the Streets Levy and planned to be built this fall include:
• Juanita Woodinville Way at Northeast 140th Street
• 108th Avenue Northeast at Northeast 60th Street
• 132nd Avenue Northeast at Northeast 100th Street
• 124th Avenue Northeast at Northeast 108th Street
RFB crosswalks funded by the streets levy and planned for the future include:
• Northeast Juanita Drive at Juanita Beach Park
• Northeast 70th Street at South Rose Hill Park
• Juanita Woodinville Way at Northeast 136th Place
• Juanita Woodinville Way at Northeast 143rd Place
• Lake Street South at Seventh Avenue South