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New Hall Boulevard signal adds safety for trail users

Manual crossing signal adds convenience for pedestrians along Fanno Creek Trail


by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Phillip Conroy, who recently moved to Beaverton from Norfolk, Va., rides his bike across the Fanno Creek Trail crossing on Southwest Hall Boulevard. Conroy used the crosswalk for the first time on Tuesday afternoon.It’s not a bridge nor an underpass, but a technologically advanced signal system that now lets pedestrians and bicyclists traversing the Fanno Creek Regional Trail safely navigate the congested, four-lane Southwest Hall Boulevard with relatively minimal interruption in vehicular traffic flow.

The signalized mid-block crossing system opened on Jan. 7 for public use between Greenway Drive and Nimbus Avenues along Hall. It enables walkers, runners and bicyclists on the more than 5-mile trail to cross Hall safely while having minimal impact on vehicular traffic.

Paid for by the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District, which maintains the extensive, asphalt-surface trail, and operated by the city of Beaverton, the High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk, or HAWK, beacon is one of the first of its kind installed in Washington County. With the push of a button, the beacon allows protected pedestrian crossings by stopping motorists on an as-needed basis. The project costed approximately $350,000, said Bob Wayt, the district’s communications director.

At the crossing, on a long slope between Greenway and Nimbus, trail users push a button on a pole that activates the overhead traffic signal, which progresses from dark to yellow to red and ultimately to flashing red. In that mode, motorists are expected to treat it like a stop sign and proceed after stopping and confirming the crosswalk is clear of pedestrians and cyclists.

Like most modern intersection signals, the “walk” and “don’t walk” indicators include a 17-second countdown clock that lets trail users know how long they have before vehicles get the green light. The signal is synchronized with those at Nimbus and Greenway daily from 7 to 10 a.m. and 3:30 to 6 p.m. to minimize the signal’s impact on rush hour traffic. Other times the signal activates and changes promptly when the button is pushed.

The signal’s activation caps a decade-long process to develop a safe and efficient crossing of Hall for trail users, Wayt said. Before the HAWK signal, those wanting to cross Hall safely had to go more than 400 feet east or west to the intersections with Greenway or Nimbus and wait for the traffic light to change before reconnecting with the trail on the other side of the street.

The Oregon Department of Transportation and Metro regional government commissioned a traffic study in spring 2011, which led to public meetings and presentations to the park district’s board of directors and Beaverton City Council. Those entities considered a variety of options, including a bridge or underpass, but cost and logistical concerns led them back to the signalized, mid-block crossing option.

With cost estimates coming in around $3.4 million for a bridge and about $9 million for a tunnel under Hall Boulevard, the $350,000 mid-block crossing was considered the preferable

option.

“One of the major benefits of the new crossing was that it could be installed much more quickly and for far less money than an overpass, tunnel or any of the other options,” said Doug Menke, the park district’s general manager. “It’s working well so far, but we urge caution in the area. Everyone needs to adjust to the new light at that location.”

The Hall Boulevard signal comes nearly a year after a mid-block signalized crossing signal was installed along the 5.5-mile Waterhouse Trail on Walker Road between Schendel and 167th avenues. That crossing system was activated in early February 2013.

This spring, the city of Beaverton plans to realign the Fanno Creek Trail on the south side of Hall so it aligns with the crossing, eliminating the need for trail users to take the sidewalk to reconnect with the pathway.

Phillip Conroy, who recently moved to Beaverton from Norfolk, Va., said he found the new signal on Hall rather beneficial when he came upon the thoroughfare on his bicycle on Tuesday afternoon.

“As soon as I pressed the button, it was pretty responsive,” he said. “I didn’t have to wait. Traffic stopped, and I was able to cross pretty quickly. I guess this is the only main, big road crossing on the trail, and it’s really helpful to just keep going.”

Within park district boundaries, the Fanno Creek Trail stretches for 4.5 miles, roughly between the Garden Home Recreation Center at 7475 S.W. Oleson Road and Greenway Park, which runs east of Greenway Avenue and Southwest Scholls Ferry Road. The trail connects residential neighborhoods, employment and commercial centers, schools, and THPRD facilities to bus and light-rail transit and to the regional trail network.

Conroy said he enjoys what the Fanno trail exposes him to while riding his bike.

“The path is awesome. I saw a lot of beavers and a lot of birds down there,” he said. “I’m definitely going to use it a lot.”

For more information, visit thprd.org.




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