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BC, Newton Collaborate On High Tech Crosswalk Signal

Heights Staff

Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01


Kelly Bruett / Heights Staff

Boston College students who have crossed Beacon Street at Lawrence Avenue this year may not have noticed that the journey has recently become less dangerous than in years past. Until now, pedestrians who wished to cross Beacon Street at Lawrence Avenue had to deal with a notoriously difficult and unregulated crosswalk. This year, however, the task has become significantly easier.

BC, in conjunction with the City of Newton, agreed to fund the design and construction of a High-Intensity Activated CrossWalk (HAWK), a new pedestrian crossing signal that has been proven to increase safety for pedestrians. Officially known as the pedestrian hybrid beacon, HAWK functions to facilitate safe pedestrian crossings, while stopping traffic only as needed.

Plans to implement HAWK were first put in motion when BC was in discussions with the City of Newton on the Stokes Hall project in the fall of 2010.

“The University heard concerns raised by a number of faculty, staff, and students regarding the difficulty in crossing Beacon Street,” said Jeanne Levesque, director of government relations at BC. There had been minor pedestrian accidents, near misses with motor vehicles, and a general tendency for cars not to stop despite the “yield to pedestrian” signs.

“The need was recognized to improve the safety of pedestrians crossing Beacon St.,” said Paul Cappadona, manager of transportation and parking at BC. “Since many of the pedestrians are members of the BC community, we had a vested interest.”

The permitting process took about a year, as approval was required from a number of city agencies. BC hired the transportation consulting firm Vanasse Hangen Bristlin (VHB) to determine the best location on Beacon street to install HAWK. VHB also observed two other HAWKs already installed in Newton, one at Crafts and Linwood Street, the other at Parker and Theodore Road.

BC has also worked to raise awareness about the new HAWK installation through posts on the Transportation and Parking website, as well as ongoing collaboration between BCPD and Newton Police Traffic Division to promote crosswalk safety.

 Levesque also had a few pieces of safety advice for BC students. First, while other crosswalks with signage exist on Beacon Street, BC students are now encouraged to cross at Lawrence Avenue. Second, BC students should always press the button to activate the signal for proper orientation and not walk out into the intersection without doing this first. Third, for BC students with cars, they can proceed on a flashing red, once the crosswalk is clear of pedestrians, to keep traffic flowing and prevent backups.

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