Austin City Council greenlights new hybrid traffic signals for needed areas

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The Austin City Council has approved a $2.85 million contract to build 10 new traffic signals across the city in locations with identified safety needs.

The signals, called pedestrian hybrid beacons, are pedestrian-activated traffic control devices that help pedestrians safely cross major roadways where traffic signals are not present.

They will be built near:

  • 12th Street and Luna Street 
  • First Street and King Edward Place 
  • First Street and Desert Primrose Drive 
  • First Street and Monroe Street 
  • The 515 block of South Congress Avenue (south of Riverside Drive) 
  • Burnet Road and 47th Street (Near the Texas School for the Blind) 
  • First Street and Great Britain Boulevard 
  • Davis Lane and West Gate Boulevard 
  • Davis Lane and Copano Drive 
  • Lamar Boulevard and Houston Street 

Some students at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired use the existing signal on Lamar Boulevard next to the Triangle, such as Zackary Croteau.

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Dangerous by design: Poor planning puts Austin pedestrian safety at risk

He is a 17-year-old who will be graduating from the school this school year. He works at the Triangle and uses the pedestrian hybrid beacon.

“I don’t have to walk as far,” he said. “It’s much faster to get where I need to go.”

He and his teacher Mary Faith Cowart practiced using the crossing signal at Lamar Boulevard and the Triangle Tuesday.

She teaches orientation and mobility.

"It's teaching purposeful movement,” said Cowart. “We go from here to bathroom or we go from here to downtown. Depending on what the student needs, if they're trying to get to their job, then we'll teach them the route."

Cowart said the signals are useful, but still unsafe for the blind and visually impaired.

"What happens is that they're run,” said Cowart. “People don't understand they need to stop."

Cars barrel through, even when Zack followed the rules. He was closely followed by Cowart, until he crossed independently.

When using the beacons, STOP on red. STOP on flashing red and proceed only if it is clear and there are no pedestrians nearby.

According to the City of Austin, the council set aside funding for these projects from the Quarter-Cent Fund in 2015. The fund was created, the city said, when Capital Metro designated 25 percent of its one-cent sales tax toward transit and mobility projects between 2001 and 2014.

With this funding, the city said ATD has already constructed pedestrian hybrid beacons and traffic signals at six locations, with seven more either pending or under construction. 

As a part of the $2.85 million contract, city staff will also have the option to build two to four more should they identify any additional locations in need.

KVUE produced an in-depth report on the alarming number of pedestrian-involved crashes in Austin. The “Dangerous by Design” series of stories can be found HERE.