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New ‘HAWK’ pedestrian crossing system to be activated on Hamilton’s Eaton Avenue

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October 27, 2021

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A higher-safety crossing for pedestrians, featuring blinking lights, will be activated Thursday morning on Eaton Avenue near the Flub’s Dariette ice cream shop where the Beltline biking/walking path eventually will cross.

Once people get used to it, the HAWK (High intensity Activated crossWalK) system is expected to make crossing the heavily traveled roadway safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Invented in Tucson, Arizona, HAWK systems are pedestrian-friendly, but at the same time are better for flow of vehicles than regular traffic signals would be.

Here’s how they work:

The crossings have poles that extend above the street with lights similar to ordinary traffic signals. But unlike regular signals, they only operate when a bicyclist or pedestrian activates them.

Once a walker or bike-rider sets off the signal, the same way people do to cross a street at a traffic light, they see a don’t walk hand. Once the signal is activated, they know it’s safe to cross the intersection, after making sure traffic stops.

The lights facing drivers at the crossing are dark until a pedestrian activates them. After that, the lights flash, before eventually glowing solid red. Two red signals overhead toggle back and forth in red, telling motorists that once the bikers or walkers have left the intersection, they are free to drive through. Drivers behind the first vehicle should check the intersection to make sure nobody has entered it before passing through themselves.

The signals cost about $67,000, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources agreed to pay 75% of that cost, because other costs of installing the first part of the beltline, from Cleveland Avenue to Eaton, was lower than expected. Costs also were lowered because the city was able to reuse poles and city employees helped with installation.

“We plan to go to construction next year with Phase 2, from Cleveland to North B Street, said Allen Messer, senior civil engineer for the city. That will link the beltline to the Great Miami River near the Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill indoor sports complex and convention center.

Preliminary plans also have been developed for Phase 3, along the Spooky Nook complex, along the top of the concrete flood levee, from Black Street to Main Street. Those should be submitted this week to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

The path ultimately is to be a 2.96-mile asphalt strip that will extend in a large curve from the former Champion Paper mill and the Great Miami River to near Millville Avenue.

Plans for a Phase 4, in the areas west of Eaton Avenue, have yet to be determined. By far, the largest expense of that project will be crossing Two Mile Creek just west of Eaton Avenue.

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