Ashland installs pedestrian beacons

ASHLAND — City crews began installing long-awaited flashing pedestrian beacons at three intersections along Siskiyou Boulevard this week. Improvements to the Garfield Street crosswalk, where a Southern Oregon University student was struck and killed last February, won't be determined for at least a month, when the city gets results from its engineering consultants, engineering services manager Jim Olson said.

The city is installing a total of 10 lights at Palm Avenue and Avery and Bridge streets, Olson said. Pedestrians will be able to activate the amber-colored beacons with the push of a button, and the lights will flash for 30 seconds.

Crews hope to complete the Bridge Street beacons by Friday and the rest soon after, said Karl Johnson, an assistant engineer overseeing the installation. An electrician is scheduled to work on the lights Thursday and Friday of this week.

College students and other pedestrians should embrace the flashing beacons more readily than the orange pedestrian flags the university provided last spring, Olson predicted.

"It doesn't take much effort to push the button and I think a lot of the students out there when they pick up a flag might think it's a little beneath their dignity or might be a little childlike, but these buttons activate a basic traffic safety feature," he said.

The Siskiyou safety ad hoc committee also sent its ideas for reconfiguring the Garfield Street intersection to Portland-based consulting firm HDR Engineering. The company conducted traffic and pedestrian counts last week and expected to have recommendations for improvements and possible safety control measures ready in about a month, Olson said.

Gladys Jimenez, 22, was struck by a vehicle while in the Garfield Street crosswalk on Feb. 13 and died a week later. Her death spurred the creation of the ad hoc committee and safety improvements on Siskiyou Boulevard.

The university community is "thrilled" to see the beacons being installed at three of its intersections, said Craig Morris, SOU's interim vice president of finance and administration. When the lights are up, the orange pedestrian flags likely will disappear, he said.

"Theoretically, the lights should provide more safety than the flags do," he said.

Audrey Holmes, a first-year nursing student, said she thought the flashing lights would be a big improvement over the orange flags from both drivers' and pedestrians' perspectives.

"I think that's great because it's really hard as a driver to see people walking," she said. "As someone trying to cross the street, sometimes you have to wait for a while. It's kind of scary just walking out in the road ... we'll be a lot more visible."

Julie French is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 482-3456 ext. 227 or

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