Frederick County officials will monitor a new type of pedestrian signal on a street near New Market to see whether it could be a model for future devices.
The county’s installation of a pedestrian hybrid beacon at Eaglehead Drive and Hopewell Street is the first use of the traffic device in the county, and one of the first in Maryland, according to a county news release.
Unlike traditional traffic lights that incorporate “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” signals, the new beacon stays dark until it’s activated by a pedestrian.
That allows pedestrians to be in control, and puts the focus on foot traffic rather than vehicle traffic, said Thomas Washington, the manager of the beacon installation for the county’s Division of Public Works.
The location near Oakdale High School doesn’t warrant a full traffic signal, but the county wanted pedestrians to be able to cross Eaglehead Drive, Washington said.
Installing the new style of beacon is “something that we wanted to look into,” Washington said.
When a pedestrian activates the beacon, a yellow light will flash to drivers, followed by a steady yellow, as pedestrians have a “Don’t Walk” sign. That light will be followed by a steady double red light requiring drivers to stop, as pedestrians have a “Walk” signal.
The “Walk” signal is followed by a flashing “Don’t Walk” sign as pedestrians finish crossing the street, along with a timer counting down how much time they have to cross.
When the countdown is finished, the beacon will show a steady “Don’t Walk” sign and the red lights on the beacon will go out, allowing traffic to proceed.
A Federal Highway Administration study from 2010 found that pedestrian hybrid beacons can reduce pedestrian crashes by 69 percent and total crashes by 29 percent.
The beacons are helpful where drivers don’t yield with traditional crosswalk signage and markings, and where the cost of a full traffic signal wouldn’t be warranted, according to the highway administration.
The intersection’s location near Oakdale High School was a factor in the beacon’s installation as a way of making it safer for students to walk to and from school, Washington said.
While the beacon is next to an area with 1,500 housing units that will hold an estimated 4,000 people when built out, it will get even busier with the development of a commercial parcel on the south side of Old National Pike near the roundabout at Eaglehead Drive.
The Frederick County Planning Commission approved a plan in June to divide the 18-acre area into nine commercial lots.
The safety of students walking to the nearby schools was cited as a concern by several commissioners in discussions of the project.