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New devices to help Ashland pedestrians

Countdown timer displays and flashing lights will be installed by summer's end

ASHLAND ' A pedestrian's death in 2001 is leading to changes that will make the city's crosswalks safer.

Two new devices not yet seen in Southern Oregon will be installed in the city by the end of summer.

Pedestrians will find countdown timer displays that show the time left to exit a crosswalk at five intersections that have stoplights. Drivers will see flashing, embedded lights installed at pavement level at one unsignaled intersection. Pedestrians will be able to activate the lights.

Residents, City Council members and the Traffic Safety Commission urged increased measures after a pedestrian was killed in a downtown crosswalk in December 2001. Besides innovation downtown, other improvements have been made in conjunction with major street projects.

It's a great first step. I think the ideal is to continue to look at other improvements that we can do from a true engineering perspective and on the ground improvements, said Paula Brown, city public works director.

For the new crosswalk timer, instead of flashing words or hands, pedestrians will see a countdown of seconds remaining until a solid red signal appears.

They can make a judgment call if there's four seconds left, said Michael Ronkin, program manger for Oregon Department of Transportation's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. The countdown signals have been installed in Portland and Eugene. Anecdotal evidence suggests the signals have helped pedestrians, he said.

The new style warnings will be installed at Main and Helman streets, Pioneer and Second streets, and on Lithia Way at Pioneer and Second streets. The intersections also will get new signals for vehicles. ODOT will pay &

36;15,000 to &

36;20,000 for the signals.

Embedded lights will be installed at Lithia and Oak streets on a trial basis. The lights are bright enough to be clearly visible even in daylight.

In general, we seemed to find that most people like them, said Gary Van Dyke of Hammond Engineering, which researched the lights and designed pedestrian improvements for the city.

Bumpouts that put pedestrians closer to traffic lanes will be installed at six locations. The setups make pedestrians more visible and allow them to see traffic better. They also decrease the distance that pedestrians have to walk. ODOT will pay an estimated &

36;50,000 for bumpouts on Lithia Way at Pioneer and Second streets. Bumpouts are not new to the valley ' they were added in downtown Medford on Central Avenue near the Rogue Community College campus last year.

The city will pay for bumpouts on Lithia Way at Oak Street and on Main Street at Water, Oak and First streets. None of the intersections have traffic signals.Olson estimates the cost at &

36;150,000 including the embedded lights at Oak and Lithia. Work should begin in early spring.

Pedestrians on Siskiyou Boulevard will be more visible at night with the addition of 31 lights at crossings. The work is part of Siskiyou Boulevard's reconstruction. A crosswalk will be added mid-block between Mountain Avenue and Beach Street.

Installation of continental-style crosswalk with markings that run parallel to traffic continues downtown, on the boulevard, Ashland Street and at other locations around town.

Work is already finished on Ashland Street, where crosswalks were added at Ray Lane and Stadium Street. Signs tell drivers to stop for pedestrians in the walkways. Lights will probably be installed over the crosswalks. Islands have been placed in many areas of the formerly open middle turning lane.

Reach Ashland bureau reporter Tony Boom at 482-4651, or e-mail