Public outcry leads to HAWK signal installation

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By LESLIE COLLINS
Northeast News
February 20, 2013

Community feedback didn’t fall on deaf ears at Kansas City’s City Hall.

When Holy Cross Catholic School Principal Jean Ferrara and other community members voiced concerns about the deactivated crosswalk signal at St. John and Quincy, city officials listened. Their feedback has resulted in the city agreeing to install a pedestrian signal at the intersection, known as a “HAWK (High-intensity Activated crossWalK) signal” which will only activate when a pedestrian pushes the button to cross the street. The light will flash red to halt traffic. The previous signal remained green until a pedestrian pushed a button, which turned the light to yellow, then red.

St. John and Quincy was one of 37 intersections citywide where the traffic signals were deactivated since signals at those intersections were no longer warranted, according to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). City crews installed four-way stop signs at a number of those intersections, including St. John Avenue and Hardesty; St. John Avenue and Van Brunt; and St. John Avenue and Belmont.

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Pedestrians regularly relied on the pedestrian crosswalk signal at St. John and Quincy, where a push of the button would halt traffic, said Ferrara. That intersection is located near Holy Cross Catholic School as well as the Holy Cross Parish, and is across the street from Budd Park. Holy Cross Parish serves approximately 800 families and 36 students regularly walk to Holy Cross Catholic School, she said. Their campus is used throughout the week for a variety of events, she added.

“There’s a lot of traffic up and down these streets to school events and the church, and the park has gotten more use than people realize,” Ferrara said. “He (Public Works Spokesperson Sean Demory) said they noticed people were having a difficult time (crossing the street) and I thought that was kind. They were listening and that’s great. There was great worry that they weren’t listening, and I believe this shows that they are.”

Public Works Department Spokesperson Sean Demory said that although the intersection doesn’t qualify for a traffic signal that includes green, yellow and red lights, “there is a valid call for a pedestrian signal.” In addition, a HAWK signal won’t impede traffic at the intersection, he said.

“This was something that we’ve been working on prior to the (Feb. 6) press conference (at Holy Cross),” he said of considering installing a HAWK signal. “This is just part of our process to continue to observe the intersections after we make the changes and fine-tune things as we go.

“We do appreciate the vigilance of the residents who had called us last week, though. They care about the community, and the more people we have who care about their community, the better off we are.”

Kara Palan, a Holy Cross parent and Northeast resident, attended the Feb. 6 press conference at the school and voiced a number of concerns about the deactivated crosswalk signal.

“I don’t feel comfortable crossing that street with my children now,” she said at the press conference. “When you have multiple kids, it becomes difficult (to cross). You need that layer of safety. You really need that stoplight to give you time to cross the street.”

She’s grateful the city has changed its mind.

“I am absolutely thrilled to see the safety of our pedestrian traffic restored at this intersection. I want to give a huge thank you to the city for their efforts,” Palan told Northeast News.

Holy Cross parent Jean Van Booven-Shook agreed.

“We are all very happy to hear their announcement,” Van Booven-Shook said. “I was concerned it would be a long, drawn-out process to get the light restored.”

City crews began installing the HAWK signal Saturday, Feb. 16, and Demory said the city hopes to finish by the end of this week. Funding for the installation will be taken out of maintenance funds and the city is using city staff and existing equipment, he said.

Community members have also voiced concerns about the deactivated traffic signal at St. John and Topping which is near James Elementary School. The signal now flashes yellow and the pedestrian crossing button has been deactivated. Asked if the city plans to install a HAWK signal at that intersection, Demory said currently there are no plans to install that type of signal.

“We haven’t looked into any change of the signal at that location,” he said. “We are continuing to observe all the intersections we have made changes on. If we see where it will be appropriate, we will make that change.”

City officials will meet with the Kansas City Public Schools’ officials later this month to discuss affected intersections near schools and possible solutions.

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