New traffic signal in Papillion aimed at pedestrian safety

Limited traffic on West 2nd doesn’t warrant a full stop light, so the city is going with a different option.
Big changes in a heavy traffic zone three years after a ten-year-old girl is killed while crossing the street.
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 5:37 PM CDT
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PAPILLION, Neb. (WOWT) - Big changes in a heavy traffic zone three years after a 10-year-old girl is killed while crossing the street.

Abby Whitford and a friend were hit while crossing Washington Street in Papillion in August of 2019. Sadly, Abby died.

The city has been working toward a solution to keep pedestrians safe since then.

“It’s been a tough crosswalk to navigate over the years.”

30,000-40,000 cars daily pass through the intersection of Washington and West 2nd Streets in downtown Papillion.

Putting pedestrians at risk.

Limited traffic on West 2nd doesn’t warrant a full stop light, so the city is going with a different option.

“It’s going to be very clear very explicit as far as when traffic needs to stop and when pedestrians can cross the road,” said Trenton Albers, Communications Director City of Papillion.

Work is already underway on installing a high-intensity activated crosswalk or HAWK system. Here’s how it works.

Pedestrians push a button as usual to cross the street. Drivers will see a flashing yellow light warning them pedestrians want to cross.

The yellow lights then turn solid telling motorists to stop, followed by solid red lights allowing pedestrians to cross. A timer tells them how much time they have to cross the street.

But here’s a big difference.

The HAWK system remains active and once the crosswalk is clear of pedestrians, a flashing red light comes on. Drivers treat that light as they would a regular stop sign.

“This is sort of the step below a stop light where it doesn’t require traffic from the side streets to stop. It doesn’t inhibit traffic at the other time when it’s not being used for pedestrian uses.”

The goal is to keep traffic flowing along with enhanced pedestrian safety.

“There’s a corridor from Center Street in Omaha to Lincoln Street in Papillion of smart signals that are connected and talk to each other so this will be part of that network too.”

One other safety factor of the HAWK system, sensors determine when pedestrians are still in the crosswalk.

“If a pedestrian is going slower, the system is going to extend the amount of time that the pedestrian has to cross the street.”

The HAWK system is the first of its kind in the area.

The cost of the lights is around $230,000. It is due to be finished next month.

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