Flashing lights improve pedestrian crossings on Broadway Street

By University Communications
September 13, 2015
The new flashing light system

Photo: The new flashing light system

Walking across South Broadway Street, the main north-south thoroughfare through Menomonie, can be intimidating at times.

Two of the pedestrian crossings on the street, one in the heart of the University of Wisconsin-Stout campus, will be safer, however, when the fall semester begins.

Students return to residence halls Sunday, Sept. 6, and classes begin Wednesday, Sept. 9.

The university, city and state have worked together to install new push-button flashing light systems at pedestrian crossings on 10th Avenue and 17th Avenue.

Pedestrians at the two sites can start bright flashing amber signals —four of them, one at each corner —that alert motorists, who are required by law to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

The projects were completed as part of a state road project this summer on Broadway, which also is part of Highway 25.

Previously, the intersections were marked with traditional yellow pedestrian crossing signs, but only one had any flashing lights. The crossing signs remain along with pavement markings to further alert motorists.

"Studies show the percentage of motorist compliance is much better with the new light system than with the plain diamond-shaped sign," said Jim Uhlir, executive director of UW-Stout Health and Safety. "It's a busy area. I believe this is much-improved for safety."

Both crossings are slightly more dangerous than others on Broadway because they're at the bottoms of hills.

"We get concerns every year on Broadway. This really helps the effort to get motorists to stop and pedestrians to use these signals. We encourage pedestrians to use the crosswalks and not jaywalk on our campus," Uhlir said.

The daily traffic count on South Broadway Street is 14,600, according to Randy Eide, Menomonie Public Works director. Eide said the flashing lights improve safety for pedestrians but don't completely eliminate risk.

"Once the flashers are activated it does not mean the traffic will automatically stop. Pedestrians still need to look both ways. I've seen a few people push the buttons and just start walking, which could be very dangerous," Eide said.

The 10th Avenue crossing is near UW-Stout's Millennium Hall, residence halls and Merle M. Price Commons, all on the east side of Broadway. The university has three parking lots with 320 stalls on the west side of Broadway.

The 17th Avenue crossing is just south of UW-Stout's Don and Nona Williams Stadium, at the far end of campus but likely a busy intersection on football game day.

For several years the university and city have looked at options for improving pedestrian safety on Broadway. UW-Stout industrial design students, for example, developed ideas that examined the possibilities and were considered, Uhlir said.

The city and the university each paid for one of the improved crossings.

The systems, called the Rapid Rectangular Flashing Beacon, are made by TAPCO, Traffic and Parking Control Corp., of Brown Deer.