New Main Street crosswalk signals creating confusion
by Laura Haley
Contributing Writer
Apr 10, 2014 | 2970 views | 0 0 comments | 574 574 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Using a newly installed pedestrian crossing light, a woman crosses Main Street near City Market. The new lights have created confusion for both drivers and pedestrians, city officials said this week. Photo by Tom Taylor
Using a newly installed pedestrian crossing light, a woman crosses Main Street near City Market. The new lights have created confusion for both drivers and pedestrians, city officials said this week. Photo by Tom Taylor
Two new pedestrian crossing signals on Main Street have only been operational for a short time, but they’re already causing headaches for Moab city staff members. According to Moab City Engineer Rebecca Andrus, many people don’t understand how to use the signals, and that is causing confusion and problems.

Andrus said part of the problem stems from the fact that the signals don’t offer any lag time once the button is pushed.

“As soon as you push the button, the light starts flashing for the pedestrian to cross, and it also starts flashing for traffic,” she said.

Because there is no delay to give vehicles time to stop before pedestrians are signaled to walk, the signals are creating confusion for the pedestrians who are waiting to cross.

Andrus said she has been working with the Utah Department of Transportation to smooth out the issues, but so far no final solution has been reached.

“They’re hoping that if we just spread the word and educate people it will get better,” she said. However, Andrus pointed out that due to the high number of tourists that visit Moab, the turnover rate for both pedestrians and drivers is high, especially at this time of year.

The current signals use a flashing yellow light, which indicates to both the pedestrian and drivers to proceed with caution. If the crosswalk is clear of pedestrians, a car can go through.

Kevin Kitchen, public information officer for UDOT’s Region 4, said a pedestrian traffic study by UDOT showed that the pedestrian crossing lights were deemed the best option.

“The city coordinated with UDOT and requested that the pedestrian traffic studies be performed. Based on the results of the study and engineering judgment, it was determined that the marked crosswalks were warranted at these two locations, but that other pedestrian safety features were also necessary ...” Kitchen said in an email to The Times-Independent. “These two areas warranted a pedestrian signal but did not warrant a full traffic signal.”

Kitchen said UDOT has installed similar lights in other communities and they have been effective.

“UDOT has installed these types of crossings in high pedestrian areas in Cedar City and in Kaysville and they have been found to be effective in those locations, especially when enforced,” Kitchen said in an email to The Times-Independent.  

If the current setup doesn’t resolve the issues, Andrus said the city may consider going to a signal that actually uses a red light, forcing traffic to stop. When that type of signal is activated by a pedestrian the lights would flash yellow to warn oncoming traffic to slow down, then turn red. The red light for vehicles would be accompanied by a green “walk” light for pedestrians, which would turn to a flashing hand. After a set amount of time, the solid red light would turn to a flashing red, to indicate that approaching cars should stop, check the crosswalk, and then proceed through it if it is clear.

Andrus said she will continue to work with UDOT to try and find a solution.

Kitchen said drivers should always exercise caution when approaching an intersection or pedestrian crossing and pedestrians should always keep an eye out for traffic when attempting to cross any street.

Times-Independent reporter Lisa J. Church contributed to this story.

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