2:15 p.m., Aug. 3, 2010----As summer begins to draw to a close and classes are just around the corner for students at the University of Delaware, those taking classes on the Webb Farm will return to the campus to find a new kind of traffic signal -- one meant to make it easier and safer for students, faculty members, and visitors to cross Route 72 at Farm/Webb Lane.
The signal is a High-intensity Activated crossWalK (HAWK) and is being installed as a joint partnership between the University of Delaware's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT). The location is the first in the state to be outfitted with this new type of signal.
Route 72 separates two areas of the farm used by the college. Robin Morgan, dean of the college, said students and faculty often have trouble crossing the intersection, which currently does not have traffic signals or a crosswalk.
“This project really belongs to our students,” Morgan said.
The project gathered momentum in 2008 when members of the Ag College Council presented a petition to DelDOT from concerned students and local citizens. They then worked with DelDOT to devise a plan that would make the intersection safer for pedestrians.
“This traffic signal is unique,” said Mark Luszcz, assistant chief traffic engineer with DelDOT. “These signals were developed to be used at locations that do not meet the criteria for a traditional traffic signal. They provide a reasonably safe way for pedestrians to cross the roadway, while being less disruptive to traffic.”
Luszcz, who worked with UD on the project, said the HAWK signal has been experimentally used across the country for 10 years, with impressive results. The device received approval for national use in January.
The HAWK system, originally developed by the city of Tucson, Ariz., is only activated when a pedestrian approaches the signal and presses a button, like they would at a traditional signalized crosswalk. Once it is activated, the signal will go through a series of stages that will stop traffic long enough for pedestrians to safely cross the roadway.
Traffic will then be allowed to proceed and the signal will reset itself until activated again. When the signal is not active, it will be dark to allow traffic to move freely.
“We realize that there will be a learning curve with this system since it is new to the citizens of Delaware,” said Luszcz. “We have been working with the University of Delaware to get the word out to their students before the school year begins, as well as to citizens who travel the road.”
An informational session for students will be held at the start of the fall semester.
DelDOT began installing the system in July and it is tentatively scheduled to be activated on Friday, Aug. 6. Citizens will also notice new informational signs as they approach the intersection, which alert them to the presence of the new signal.
“This new type of signal is another tool that we can use to ensure the safety of our citizens as they cross our roadways at intersections that would traditionally be outfitted with only a flashing yellow beacon or a crosswalk without a traffic signal,” said DelDOT Secretary Carolann Wicks. “This system has been tested and proven to be highly effective in numerous jurisdictions throughout the United States and we are happy to be bringing it to Delaware.”
If the HAWK signal is successful, Luszcz said, DelDOT will consider using the system in other locations throughout the state.
“We feel this is a good place for us to start with these devices,” he said.