The dark and rainy monsoon night of Aug. 8, 2018, provided the perfect combination for a crash to happen on Tucson’s streets.
At 9 p.m., that combination proved deadly.
Margot Kellum, 68, was struck and killed by a driver as she walked across Speedway in a painted crosswalk at Richey Boulevard. The driver later told police that they didn’t see her until it was too late.
It’s incidents like the Aug. 8 crash that highlight the need for upgrades to crosswalks, which includes further use of the High-intensity Activated Cross Walk, or HAWK, crossings first installed in the city in 2000.
We’ve likely all seen them. Once activated, the lights flash yellow preparing drivers to stop, then bright red, stopping drivers as the pedestrian crosses. Finally, they flash red, signaling drivers to proceed only after fully stopping and ensuring the pedestrian has made it safely across.
By the end of the year, at least two of these pedestrian crossings should be installed in Tucson after funding was made available by the Regional Transportation Authority, the Tucson Department of Transportation says.
One of them will go at Speedway and Richey Boulevard, where Kellum was fatally struck last year. The second will be placed at Grant Road and Arcadia Avenue, between Swan and Craycroft roads.
The transportation department has more than 140 HAWK crossings throughout the city for pedestrians and bicyclists, including major four-lane and six-lane arterial roads. According to a 2017 Federal Highway Administration safety study, the crossings reduce pedestrian crashes by 69 percent.
“Motorists, they stop for pedestrians who are in HAWK crossings,” said Michael Graham, a TDOT spokesman, adding that drivers comply with stopping at a HAWK signal about 96 percent of the time. “When you compare to a marked crosswalk on the street, the compliance rate by motorists is a lot less than in a HAWK crossing.”
The upgraded paths for pedestrians are one important cog of the City of Tucson’s “Complete Streets” ordinance, which was passed by the City Council in February.
“Whenever we design a street, we look at all users, all ages and abilities, to try to accommodate each user as much as we can,” said Blake Olofson, a TDOT traffic engineer. “It’s something as simple as making sure we provide uninterrupted Americans with Disabilities Act sidewalks, new traffic signals, pedestrian protected bike lanes and of course, a HAWK is a signal that can go in.”
And according to Olofson, there’s more to be done, but the road crossings come with an expensive price tag.
“They’re about $150,000 to $175,000 each,” Olofson said. “So, we try to identify as much funding as we can that comes out of the Highway User Revenue Funds, the state gas tax, use of Regional Transportation Authority money, and Highway Safety Improvement Program.”
The city plans on installing six crosswalks with a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration. They will be installed at the following intersections: 22nd Street and Longfellow Avenue, Sixth Avenue and Ohio Street, Pima Street and Mountain View Avenue, Alvernon Way and Bellevue Street, Campbell Avenue and Wyoming Street, and Prince Road and Crescent Manor Drive.
While the grant funds will be available in 2022, TDOT is working on the designs with the use of money from HURF.
“We’re going to be looking for any type of project to incorporate as much safety elements and mobility elements as possible,” Olofson said. “We’re always re-evaluating the HAWK list, and we’re always taking locations from the public to evaluate for enhanced crossings. We’re trying to be more proactive in the near term.”
Down the Road
Lane restrictions planned for I-10 near Pinal Air Park: Overnight lane closures are coming to Interstate 10 near Pinal Air Park Road from March 4 through March 15.
Crews will reduce I-10 to one lane in both directions for bridge deck work each night from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m, Mondays through Thursdays. A 14-foot vehicle width restriction will also be implemented.
I-19 at Duval Mine Road set for lane restrictions: Road crews will have overnight lane closures set for Interstate 19 at Duval Mine Road due to road striping work beginning March 3.
Crews will be working from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night until March 5.
Motorists should use caution and watch for active personnel and equipment.
Oro Valley schedules road repair after water main break: Crews will be working on Sun Rose Drive, which suffered damage when a water main broke on Feb. 27.
The road’s base and sub-base materials need to dry before officials will know how much of the road to replace.
Repairs are estimated to take a week to finish. Motorists who access Desert Vista Estates will need to use an alternate route.