North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Marysville receives new HAWK signal


Christopher Andersson

The HAWK signal at 4th Street by Asbery Field is nearly finished with its installation.

A new type of signal will be activated soon on Marysville's Fourth Street that officials hope will improve pedestrian safety in the area.

The "high-intensity activated crosswalk," or "HAWK" signal is one that many drivers will likely be unfamiliar with as it will be the first one in Marysville.

The first HAWK signal installed on a state highway in Snohomish County was in Edmonds in 2015. The first HAWK signals in the country were installed in 2000.

There are a few others around the state including in Mount Vernon and Renton.

The new signal is installed on Fourth Street (a.k.a. SR-528) near Asbery Field and is likely to be operational soon, according to Marysville's communications officer Connie Mennie.

The last pieces are scheduled to be put into place on April 17, she said, and the signal could be activated as soon as April 18.

"It's something new and we acknowledge that, but we hope that the people feel that it will be worth it for the safety of pedestrians," said Mennie.

The signal is activated by pedestrians and is off until those times. When not in use, the lights of the signal will be dark and it is okay to proceed through the crosswalk without stopping.

Once activated, a yellow light will flash at the bottom to signal drivers to slow down. That yellow light will become solid, meaning that drivers should prepare to stop.

Then two solid red lights will signal for drivers to come to a complete stop at the intersection.

Shortly thereafter, the red lights will begin flashing, meaning that drivers can proceed through the crosswalk if it is clear, although they still must come to a complete stop.

Then the signal will return to its off position.

"The cars won't have to stop unless a pedestrian activates the signal," said Mennie.

Mennie said that putting in the crosswalk was a balance between not wanting to increase traffic, but also wanting to look after the safety of the pedestrians who need to get across 4th Street.

A 2010 study from the Federal Highway Administration found that HAWK signals reduced pedestrian collisions by 69 percent when compared to before the signals were installed. Total crashes were also reduced by 29 percent.

City officials expect it to receive use after school in the mid-afternoon and in times where there are events at the nearby Asbery Field, such as the Strawberry Festival.

The crosswalk provides those trying to get across Fourth Street a better option than walking to lights at 47th Avenue or State Avenue, which could be a ways away.

"There can be a lot of traffic in that area and a lot of people, younger folks in particular, are not going to want to walk the several blocks to get to an intersection you are supposed to cross at," said Mennie.

A median is installed in the middle of the crosswalk as well, so those who are slow walkers do not have to walk across the entire five-lane street in one go if they are unable.

"Our crew thought they would add that as a safety feature," said Mennie.

Courtesy of the Washington State Department of Transportation

This graphic from the Washington State Department of Transportation shows how the HAWK signal operates.

Fourth Street is also a state highway, serving as SR-528, and so the City of Marysville worked with WSDOT on the project.

The two organizations decided on a HAWK signal in part because it is a pedestrian signal, instead of a traffic signal, and therefore requires a lower threshold of traffic to be built.

The project cost a total of $251,000, around $245,000 of which was funded through grants, according to Mennie.

Mennie said that some citizens have expressed concern over whether adding a new traffic feature would be worth it, but feels that it is best for the safety of pedestrians.

"I appreciate that new things can be confusing to learn, but I think it will be good for the city in the long run," she said.


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