New crosswalks look to enhance pedestrian safety

New crosswalks look to enhance pedestrian safety

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Two new intersections in Burnsville now warn drivers when a walker is present, potentially improving pedestrian safety in otherwise treacherous crosswalks.

Think of it as the cross walk of the future: Intersection 2.0. Or, what engineers call an "enhanced" crosswalk to replace those crosswalks in the middle of the block where there's no red light to stop traffic, only a yellow sign with a picture of someone walking.

One stretch of Nicollet Blvd. now has in-pavement warning lights letting drivers know someone's there.

"The problems is people A. Don't know the law. B. Are looking down and not paying attention, or C. Just don't want to stop. And the system like this really point out that something is different," Burnsville city engineer Ryan Peterson said.

When Fairview Ridges expanded its hospital in Burnsville, they moved the employee parking across the street. That meant 400 employees walking to and from work across a road that carries 10,000 cars a day.

The system, paid for by the hospital cost about $150,000 to install and uses powerful LED lights imbedded in the concrete, calibrated to be easily seen by drivers, improving their chances of stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk.

"The compliance rate in those studies went from under 20 percent for cars stopping at a crosswalk to over 80 percent," Peterson said.

Unlike warning lights that may flash constantly, these are only activated by the person walking across the road.

"This is going to greatly enhance the safety but the pedestrians that use these still must look in both directions," Peterson said.

One more thing city engineers have done is move the stop line farther away from the crosswalk to create a larger cushion of safety. They say it also prevents one car from blocking another driver's view of the intersection.

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