Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 7th, 2012 at 1:11 pm
(Photo from beacon manufacturer)
The Oregon Department of Transportation flipped the switch on a new crossing treatment on SW Barbur this morning. The location, south of SW Hamilton Street near Rasmussen Village, is just up the road from where Angela Burke was struck and then killed on December 15th, 2010 by Caleb Pruitt as he sped south on Barbur.
The location where the beacon was installed is a particularly high-speed section of Barbur. It has five auto lanes and bike lanes in both directions. A median island and pedestrian warning signs already exist due to a TriMet bus stop nearby (see photo). Activists have been pushing ODOT to install a crossing treatment in this location; but because Barbur is a state highway, ODOT was hesitant to do anything that could potentially impede auto traffic flow and/or cause rear-end collisions.
"ODOT has taken the unusual step of installing this flashing beacon above the highway to make it easier for drivers to see."
— ODOT statement
However, perhaps due in part to the high-profile tragedy, ODOT made it happen.
In a statement yesterday, the agency referred to the installation of the beacon above a highway as, "an unusal step." In addition to the flashing beacon, they've also installed additional warning beacons prior to the crossing to "warn drivers to slow down ahead of time so they can stop safely."
The beacon itself is activated via a push button. When the LEDs are flashing, people using the road (in cars or on bikes) are legally obligated to wait until a person has crossed safely before they continue. In their press release, ODOT warns people who will use the beacon to, "always be alert for the driver not paying attention—and not stopping."
Rapid flash beacons are a relatively new tool for traffic engineers. Portland has installed them in several other places, including an intersection on SE Foster that was the site of two fatalities in November 2010.
The beacons cost about $35,000 a piece.