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‘Rapid Flash Beacons’ coming to fatal crosswalk on SE Foster

Posted by on March 1st, 2010 at 4:48 pm

A Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon at work.
(Photo taken from video by beacon manufacturer)

A new type of crossing treatment is set for installation on SE Foster near 80th — the same location where two people were fatally wounded back in November.

PBOT sources confirm that crews will install a Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon in the coming weeks where Jennifer Leonard and her friend Jessica Finlay were hit on November 1st, 2009. Leonard was killed instantly and Finlay died in January from injuries sustained in the collision.

Following that incident, activists staged a demonstration at the crosswalk calling on the City of Portland to make it safer for people trying to cross the street.

As we reported back in November, these treatments have proven effective in evaluations by the Federal Highway Administration. PBOT plans to install them at three locations along NE 33rd this year (at Going, Klickitat, and Holman) as part of their efforts to provide safe crossings where bicycle boulevards cross larger streets.

These beacons cost about $35,000 a piece and begin flashing almost immediately after being activated via a push-button.

Mayor Adams is expected to make a full statement about the new crossing beacons later this week.

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  • Tim March 1, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    We have these out front of our house on a busy street. They really don’t do much good. Many times I have hit the button to start the flashing and none of the oncoming cars will stop until you literally walk out into the crosswalk.

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  • Anonymous March 1, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    I want one of these in Tualatin… SW Martinazzi and Boones Ferry road has a history of near misses, and at least one bike/car crash

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  • trail user March 1, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    I saw crews putting up and testing out blinking crossing lights there on Saturday on my way to Powell Butte. Curious onlookers were asking what they were doing, and traffic was backed up on eastbound Foster in front of the new lights. Thought it was in accident at first because of strobing lights on top of installation trucks. Didn’t have a camera to get a pic, unfortunately.

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  • Vinny March 1, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    The FHWA has a bit more detail on RRFBs (http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/intersection/resources/techsum/fhwasa09009/ and http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/resources/interim_approval/ia11/fhwamemo.htm). While Tim’s experience may not be that great, FHWA is citing two studies showing RRFBs increases driver yielding by 18 to 81%.

    One of the great things about these systems is they are fast an easy to install. Solar powered, wireless buttons – just drop them in and you’re done. No trenching, no tearing up the sidewalks and streets.

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  • Hart March 1, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    $35,000.00 A PIECE? Who built them, NASA?

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  • Vinny March 1, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    They’re about $10,000 each. But you need 2-3 units and of course you have to pay someone to install it.

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  • Kevin Wagoner March 1, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    I think these are the same thing they have on NE Multnomah between NE 7th and 8th. Cars blow through them all the time. I don’t get it why not have a stop light that turns red when a button is pushed…since the goal is to get cars to stop?

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  • Kevin Wagoner March 1, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    I should add…I do think something is better than nothing.

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  • MeghanH March 1, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    This is in my neighborhood — they’ve already been installed when I walked over there yesterday. I think what drives up the cost on these is the solar panels on each sign. I hope they offer a little extra visibility to pedestrians at this site, as we really need it. There are so many people going to Fred Meyer here on foot that it was needed many years ago.

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  • Red Five March 1, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    $35K is a drop in the bucket compared to our $140K toilet downtown.

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  • trail user March 1, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    They have also installed bright amber blinkies on the crosswalk at this crossing. Tigard has installed the same lights in front of Tigard High School this year, and they’re noticeable for hundreds of feet down the road in the dark of night.

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  • electric March 1, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Something fishy about that first picture… oh yeah, it looks like the sign is installed on the wrong side of the road.

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  • Shane March 1, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    There was a set of these rapid flash beacons installed last year in Eugene and along with a major crossing improvement and road diet have helped to make a very dangerous crossing MUCH safer.

    See a report on that here:

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  • Hart March 1, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    35K for an orange flashlight? How soon until somebody steals it?

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  • trail user March 1, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    This story is full of wrong. Someone go out to 82nd and Foster to take a pic or call Fred Meyer or one of the other nearby businesses there to describe the crossing. There is a whole setup above and on the ground at this crossing, which was installed last Saturday. If a driver hits a pedestrian here day or night, they’ve gotta be driving blind.

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  • Joe Rowe March 1, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Good news, we also need a police sting to generate a lot of easy cash in a frequent death spot. It would also start changing some habits.

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  • Aaron March 2, 2010 at 2:25 am

    What in the world? I bet I could build these for under $100.

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  • peejay March 2, 2010 at 7:22 am

    Joe, I wish you were right, but I’m a skeptic when it comes to police stings changing behavior. I do like the idea of machine photo enforcement 24 hours a day for weeks at a time, which I feel is pervasive enough to have an affect on behavior. When enforcement is too random, people just chalk it up to bad luck, and don’t change their behavior.

    I would also like the law changed so that the registered owner of a car is always liable for whenever a photo ticket is generated on their car — and eliminate the “that’s not me driving” excuse.

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  • Duncan March 2, 2010 at 7:44 am

    There was the police photo radar on foster and 62nd last week and it slowed folks right the hell down…

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  • Anonymous March 2, 2010 at 8:09 am

    STING : to goad or drive: a complicated confidence game planned and executed with great care (especially an operation implemented by undercover agents to apprehend criminals)

    Quit calling what the police are doing as a STING. Those who run red lights and ignore speed limits who are caught are not part of a sting. The police are simply witnessing the commission of a crime and acting upon it.

    By calling it a sting you imply that without the police involvement those committing the crime would not do so.

    These people choose to drive in a particular manner and must take responsibility for their actions.

    But it most definitely is not a STING.

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  • jim March 2, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Pee jay-
    How is the photo radar going to know where to send the ticket if the bikes don’t have a license plate??

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  • GLV March 2, 2010 at 8:38 am

    I doubt very many bikes are exceeding the speed limit.

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  • Roger March 2, 2010 at 9:23 am

    To: Electric # 12

    The example photo is a two lane street. To be effective, rapid flashing beacons are necessary on both sides of a traffic lane and they must be visible from both directions.

    On a four lane street like Foster Road at 80th, a third beacon is required on the median safety island.

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  • Jackattak March 2, 2010 at 10:30 am

    @ Aaron # 17 –

    Good luck finding solar panels with high enough efficiency ratings to power these effectively for under $900.

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  • xauen March 2, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    The new solar lights appeared at that crosswalk by Fred Meyer sometime over the weekend and I used them Monday morning crossing to my bus stop. Cars didn’t appear any more willing to stop; I still had to step out into the crosswalk and THEN oncoming traffic slowed. This morning, the buttons and blinkenlights were both heavily swaddled in black plastic and electrical (?) tape. No idea why or by whom. I will take my camera over and snap a photo of it all this afternoon.

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  • xauen March 2, 2010 at 2:44 pm
  • kitty March 2, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    great, now everyone is a transportation electronics price expert. Is there anything in the public realm worth paying for? If only you knew what the cost of a stoplight or a freeway sign was. It costs a lot to run a city. get over it.

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  • Aaron March 2, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Kitty, don’t get me wrong, I’m a self-titled tax-and-spend liberal, and I’m all for spending as much money as we can get our hands on to make the city as great as it can be.

    I’m also an electrical engineer, and I am telling you I could build one of these, or eight of them, solar panels, batteries, and all, for far, far, far, far less than they’re paying. That’s it. $100 may have been a quick of me, especially since I didn’t realize we were talking about pairs of these, but it’s the right magnitude. If you think there’s more than a thousand dollars of electronic components per unit there I’m afraid you’re a bit naive.

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  • Aaron March 2, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    OK, I lied. I hate it when others do it so it’s not okay for me to do it. I shouldn’t call myself an electrical engineer, as I’m a year away from completing my degree. Let’s just say I’m an educated electronic hobbyist who buys this kind of stuff all the time.

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  • Aaron March 2, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Jackattak: The power shouldn’t be that big of a deal. We probably have a board with several 2W high intensity LEDs on it. Lets say four light up at a time, 8 watts at a time and they flash for 15 seconds while somebody crosses. At 30 crosses an hour that’s magically at 1 watt hour per hour. A panel that generates 10W (in sunlight) should be sufficient to last through the night even with our cloudy days, especially since we won’t have somebody crossing every two minutes all night. A consumer can buy one for well under $50. Even if we assume I’m off in my guesstimates about how often they’re used and we decide we need four, five times as much juice this isn’t anywhere near $900.

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  • Hart March 2, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    They could have bought this and saved $34,994.02 and fed the entire homeless population of the city for a year.


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  • jim March 2, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    I doubt very many bikes are exceeding the speed limit.

    it was a joke

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  • matt picio March 3, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Aaron (#28) – of course you could. But can you also build it to last 10+ years in inclement weather with no maintenance other than replacing bulbs, and beefy enough to withstand kids hanging/pulling on it and leaning against it every day for the next 10 years – for $100? I’ll wager making it withstand the environment is going to jack the price up tenfold or more.

    Which doesn’t invalidate your point – $1,000-2,000 is a lot cheaper than $10,000 (for a single unit). I’m sure there are other factors making up most of the difference.

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  • q'Ztal March 3, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Facial recognition for bikes and autos instead of plates. That would also solve the “but I wasn’t driving my car excuse”

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  • KWW March 3, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    $35k vs. a loss of life? Some of these comments are just plain rude. How much is your life worth?

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