In about two weeks’ time, drivers will likely see red lights over a crosswalk along Paint Branch Parkway that has long drawn questions of safety—and necessity—in the past.
“We’re installing a traffic signal,” said Susan Hubbard, an information officer with the county’s Department of Public Works. “It’s been in the pipeline for well over a year now.”
Already aided by speed cameras, the crosswalk in question was fitted with flashing warning lights and rumble strips in 2009. Part of that was in response to cases of pedestrians—one on foot, the other a bicyclist—being struck by cars there.
Like the warning lights, which Hubbard said would eventually be removed, the traffic lights will go from green to yellow to red by pushing a button located on either side of the road.
Ground sensors will also activate the lights, though Hubbard said that is not a message the DPW wants to convey. “We just don’t want to get [people] out of the habit [of pushing the button].”
As local resident Lamara Johnson noted today, these same sensors seem to activate the lights even when someone isn’t trying to cross the street, but rather continues walking along the sidewalk. It is unclear whether this will remain the case with the new lights.
Meanwhile, others wonder about the necessity of traffic lights.
“I'm a proponent of pedestrian safety,” said Joseph Ross, whose daily driving route includes Paint Branch Parkway, in an e-mail. “However, I also wonder what instigated the process of changing the traffic control at this crosswalk, and whether there are really enough pedestrians crossing [vs. automobiles crossing] to warrant a traffic light.”
County Councilman Eric Olson, who in last year’s budget included some $160,000 for the new lights, said today that he had always wanted traffic lights to begin with.
“We have had several serious accidents [there],” he said, calling the road a “pretty inhospitable place for pedestrians and bicyclists.”
Olson also said red lights make more sense, as some drivers “seem to be confused by a flashing yellow. And we may have some who barrel on through it, or some who stop, but the car behind them doesn’t.”
For more information about these lights and to contact Olson, click here: