Crosswalk beacons boost pedestrian safety in Federal Way

The city council could soon consider increased pedestrian safety measures at dangerous crosswalks across Federal Way.

The move began with citizens concerned about a crosswalk near Belmor mobile home park. That has led to staff proposing more widespread action. The city council will consider whether rectangular rapid flashing beacons ought to be installed at some of the crossing areas, beginning near Belmor Park along South 324th Street, and at a 17th Avenue South crossing.

The beacons will be similar to that placed at South 356th Street in June, traffic engineer Rick Perez said. There, motorists are responding positively to the push-button activated rapid flashing beacon, he said.

"Drivers are yielding more frequently for pedestrians," he said.

City staff is proposing the installation of the beacons be funded with remaining money from that project, roughly $300,000. The balance could pay for beacons at about 10 crossing areas, Perez said.

A prioritization process for deciding where the beacons ought to appear has not yet been finalized, he said. However, the process will likely take into consideration several factors. Those could include citizen complaints, areas where pedestrians have been injured or killed, school crossings, major transit stops and more, Perez said.

"Collision history will definitely be a big factor (in the process)," he said.

If the city council approves the plan, staff is planning to install Federal Way's second and third beacons near Belmor and 17th Avenue South, Perez said. The Belmor crossing has been an area of concern for several years.

In 2005, following a 2004 pedestrian fatality at the location, residents in the mobile home park petitioned the city for additional street lighting. They also asked that the city replace the handicap warning signs at the striped crosswalk with crosswalk warning signs and a flashing amber beacon, activated by a pedestrian push button. Instead, the handicap signs were replaced with fluorescent pedestrian warning signs and street lights were installed at either side of the crosswalk. A pedestrian refuge island was also installed.

In 2008, an electronic sign displaying passing motorists' speed was posted near the crosswalk. The sign flashes when drivers are exceeding the speed limit. Police also emphasize patrols in the area.

"From our perspective, the issue, in terms of pedestrian crossing, is pretty much resolved," Perez said. "We think that adding this would improve the margin of safety."

The city council will discuss the citywide plan at its 7 p.m. Dec. 15 meeting at City Hall. If the plan is approved, pedestrians and motorists could begin seeing the flashing beacons next year. Staff is hopeful to have a beacon near Belmor activated by February, with the council's go-ahead.

"We're trying to get it out there as soon as we can," Perez said.

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