Crews Thursday installed lights into the pavement to enhance the crosswalk at the intersection of First and Angela streets downtown, a popular crossing for those attending the Saturday Farmers' Markets.
The crosswalk improvements, which cost $26,000, were funded through the city's Capital Improvement Program. It is now the fourth lit crosswalk system in city limits. The other three are located at Santa Rita Road and Francisco Street (adjacent to the Safeway shopping center); at Valley Avenue and Northway Road (near Harvest Park Middle School); and at Valley Avenue and Laguna Creek Lane (west of Hearst Elementary School).
Workers began Wednesday installing the roadway warning lights and posting signage, where a crosswalk already exists. The enhanced crosswalk is expected to help drivers see pedestrians more clearly and help them safely cross the busy thoroughfare.
The warning lights, which project outwards to alert drivers, increase the percentage of motorists who yield to pedestrians and typically increase the distance that drivers brake for those crossing, according to a report by the Transit Cooperative Research Program and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program.
Joshua Pack, senior transportation engineer for the city, said the lighted crosswalk will contain 10 in-roadway warning lights and two flashing pedestrian signs. There are also two audible pedestrian buttons which gives a warning that "vehicles may not stop," and to "cross with caution." The system will operate by solar power and wireless communication from the push buttons to the lights.
First and Angela, while being a very busy intersection, hasn't seen any reported pedestrian-related collisions in the past year, Pack said, but the city typically determines where to add enhancements after a number of people have called in to complain about the danger of particular crossings. The crossing is not only a popular route for pedestrians going to the Farmers' Markets, but also for students exiting classes at Village High School nearby as well as downtown residents and workers traveling on foot. Equally, First Street can be a bottleneck for drivers in the mornings, sometimes at lunch and in the evenings.
That's why Pack said a traffic light or stop signs wouldn't be an appropriate use for the intersection.
"When stop signs get put in, it forces the driver to stop even if they're going the speed limit and there's typically an increase in rear-end collisions," he said. "Drivers also tend to increase speed in between stops."
When Pack plugged First and Angela into the city's traffic simulation model to see the effect of a four-way stop, the model projected a dramatic impact to traffic at the intersection, resulting in an additional average delays ranging from five to seven minutes per vehicle in the morning and afternoon peak hours of traffic.
In other words, the stop signs would only be shifting the problem elsewhere.
"The resulting delays would force traffic to divert to other nearby roadways in an effort to bypass the all-way stop, and roads like Main Street, Peters, Second Street, Bernal Avenue, etcetera, would see a significant spike in traffic during these hours," he added.
A stop light, Pack said, would be a much larger expense--costing in the $180,000 range.