To improve pedestrian and cyclist safety when crossing El Camino Real from Almendral Avenue, the HAWK Beacon traffic signal debuted today in Atherton.
The Town of Atherton was the lead agency for the planning, design, and construction. Since El Camino Real is a State Highway, Caltrans District 4 was an important partner in developing and approving the design of this project, expediting the processing of the permits and overseeing and approving its construction. Because this project also improves the safety and access on to El Camino Real for emergency response, Menlo Park Fire was an important financial partner funding half of the cost of the HAWK Beacon.
The Almendral HAWK beacon is the first of 13 additional HAWK Beacons to be installed along the El Camino Real within San Mateo County. Two of the additional 13 HAWK Beacons will also be installed in Atherton – one at the Alejandra Avenue crosswalk and the other at the Isabella Avenue crosswalk.
The HAWK (High intensity Activated crossWalK) Beacon is a pedestrian-activated signal system that has been successfully used in a number of cities throughout the United States and according to a 2010 study by the Federal Highway Administration, the HAWK Beacon reduced total crashes by 29% and reduced pedestrian crashes by 69%.
The Beacon operates much like a traditional traffic signal. However, the beacon remains dark and motorists proceed as usual until a pedestrian activates the beacon to cross. Once activated, the light for motorists will sequence from flashing amber to steady amber and then to steady red.
Once red, cars will be stopped and pedestrians may proceed across. The lights will then change to flashing red notifying cars to proceed when safe. Pedestrians will be signaled to complete crossing and to not start if they haven’t already. The lights will then go dark again until activated the next time.
An additional benefit to the HAWK Beacon is that it will allow the Fire Department to safely access El Camino Real from Fire Station 3 while responding to an emergency by activating the HAWK from their Fire Apparatus – similar to signal pre-emption.