CDOT, Del Norte Partner on Pedestrian Safety Improvements

November 29, 2012 - Southwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 5 - DEL NORTE – The Colorado Department of Transportation and the Town of Del Norte have partnered on the installation of a newer kind of pedestrian crossing feature to improve safety.

The Rapid Rectangular Flashing Beacon (RRFB) crosswalk on US 160 at Columbia Street will be completed by Friday November 30; it is only the second RRFB pedestrian crossing in CDOT Region 5 (Southwest/South-Central Colorado).

“As traffic on US 160 gets busier each year it is more difficult for our pedestrians,” said Town Administrator Bernadette Martinez. “This is an ever-increasing safety problem in a one-stoplight town.”

This RRFB pedestrian crosswalk differs from those at an intersection where a traffic signal is present. The system at Columbia Street does not include a vehicular signal that turns red. Rather, the white lights (LEDs) encircling the “pedestrian walk” symbol sign begin flashing after a button is pushed. This alerts motorists to the need to yield to pedestrians using the crosswalk. A few seconds later, the yellow flashing beacon indicates to pedestrians that it is OK to cross.

Pedestrians should note that RRFB crossings do not function like a traffic signal, however. The RRFB does not require vehicles to stop like at a signal, where 100 percent of the traffic must stop for a red light. At non-signalized intersections, like the one at Columbia and US 160, Colorado state law specifies vehicles must only "Yield to Pedestrians in a Crosswalk," not stop completely, as a driver would do at a red light.

“It is very important for the residents of Del Norte to understand that once they’ve activated the RRFB, they must still establish eye contact with all approaching or turning traffic before entering and advancing across the highway in the pedestrian crosswalk,” Routh said. “What the RRFB does is increase motorists’ awareness of the crosswalk and bring their attention to the need to slow down and yield.”

This type of safety improvement for pedestrians was needed in Del Norte. US 160 bisects this growing community; on the south side is the local post office, the newly renovated Windsor Hotel, several new businesses and numerous residences. On the north side of the highway are more businesses and residences.

“We are excited about this lighted pedestrian crossing sign and hope it will be very beneficial to citizens and tourists alike,” said Mayor Pro-tem Marty Asplin.

The first use of the pedestrian-activated, flashing LED Pedestrian signs was in Durango in 2010 at 7th Street and Camino (US 550). Three new RRFB crossing enhancements are planned for Pagosa Springs in December 2012, as well as one each in Cortez and Dove Creek by the summer of 2013. Buena Vista is also planning for three RRFB crossings by the summer of 2013.

“These pedestrian crossing enhancements have been shown nationwide to improve visibility and vehicle stop-compliance at crosswalks for the oncoming traffic on highways,” said Rick Routh, a CDOT Region 5 traffic engineer.

Questions or comments about the RRFB: Please contact Rick Routh, CDOT Region 5 Traffic & Safety Division, 970 385-3629.