Stop, students must cross
Pedestrians can now stop traffic on one of Park City’s busiest stretches of road with a press of a button.
City Hall, with cooperation from state transportation officials, has installed a pedestrian signal on Kearns Boulevard near the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seminary and outside Park City High School.
The signal is situated at a popular place for people to cross to and from the schools to the Prospector neighborhood, and it debuted as the start of the school year approached.
The signal remains green until someone activates it to cross. It turns yellow and then a solid red, stopping the traffic on Kearns Boulevard and allowing someone to cross. The light is red for 30 seconds, but the amount of time it is red can be changed. The light can take up to 105 seconds to turn red once someone presses the button.
"It’s a red light. In my mind it’s extremely effective," says Jon Weidenhamer, the City Hall staffer who directs the local government’s efforts to improve Park City’s pedestrian and bicyclist routes.
A City Hall committee that researched potential pedestrian and bicyclist improvements in Park City and a consultant wanted the signal put in. It was part of a wide-ranging package of upgrades that the committee and the consultant recommended. The same sort of signal is under consideration for a crosswalk on Park Avenue outside Albertsons, Weidenhamer says. It would replace one at that location that flashes yellow lights.
The signal went in on Aug. 5, giving officials a test period before the Park City School District starts classes on Aug. 25. A crosswalk has been at the location for years, and School District officials report the yellow flashing lights there previously were removed in favor of the new signal.
Parents, school district officials and the Park City Police Department have long worried about students crossing Kearns Boulevard at the location. Commuters from parts of the Snyderville Basin, the East Side of Summit County and Wasatch County drive Kearns Boulevard on their way to work in Park City, frequently causing traffic jams as they reach the schools complex and wait for students to cross.
Weidenhamer says City Hall plans a publicity campaign for the signal starting on Aug. 21, including posting message boards warning drivers of the signal. The signal looks similar to a regular stoplight, and a pedestrian-crossing sign is attached to the signal’s arm.
Phil Kirk, a Police Department captain who oversees the department’s traffic patrols, says the signal’s solid red light will be effective, claiming that type of signal is safer than a flashing light.
"In blinking lights, it leaves discretion to drivers to yield," Kirk says. "It’s less safe than having a solid red light. There’s no question. You have to stop."
He expects the Police Department will step up its patrols at the location a few days before the school year starts and lasting through the first week classes are in session.
The signal debuts as City Hall is preparing for an aggressive program of pedestrian and bicyclist upgrades that will be funded by proceeds from a $15 million voter-authorized bond. None of the bonds have been issued yet, but Weidenhamer says City Hall expects to issue about $7.7 million in spring 2009.
The local government has either completed or has almost finished four small pedestrian-bicyclist projects, such as filling in small gaps in sidewalks, but major work to be paid for with bond revenues has not commenced. Weidenhamer says the minor projects were financed through City Hall’s regular budget and the money will be returned to the government’s coffers with bond revenues.
Officials expect to use bond revenues for larger projects as well, including pedestrian-bicyclist underpasses, with Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard under consideration for large sums of money from the bond.
At the Park City School District, David Chaplin, a member of the School Board, prefers the new signal to the yellow lights that were there previously. He says students often crossed the street before making sure cars were stopped. He heard about close calls between drivers and students crossing Kearns Boulevard.
"Very often, I would see students crossing with their heads down," Chaplin says.
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