With Kilgore College classes set to begin Monday, Aug. 26, the institution is making a push to increase awareness about a new crosswalk system at Henderson Boulevard/Hwy. 259.
The Kilgore campus is spread over two main areas, divided by Henderson Boulevard. In April, a tractor-trailer crashed into a pedestrian bridge spanning the highway, leading to its demolition. KC has implemented a crosswalk, complete with new traffic lights, in the area to facilitate safe student crossings over the roadway as they trek to their classes.
“The new crosswalk went into effect July 25,” said Kilgore College Police Department Chief Heath Cariker at Monday’s board meeting.
“It’s been operating steady since then. We’ve done a great deal of work to try to get out the message. We’ve done it through social media, we’ve done it through emails, we’ve done it through it a couple of interviews with KLTV. The local papers have carried it.”
Cariker said implementing the crosswalk system was a new experience for those working at the college.
“This is a new animal, what they’ve given us. It’s called a pedestrian hybrid beacon. It is apparently the new thing and the new way they’re going to handle these crosswalks from now on.”
KC is the first organization in Texas Department of Transportation District 10 to adopt such a system, Cariker said, though similar systems have since been installed in Longview and at White Oak High School.
“We might as well learn how to love them and live with them. They’re a little bit different,” Cariker said.
The system works by using different traffic signals to let drivers know when to stop, proceed with caution or freely pass through the cross walk.
Pedestrians can activate the beacon by pressing a button mounted on the traffic light pole at either end of the crosswalk. When the button has not been pressed, the traffic lights will remain unlit, indicating motorists can pass through with caution.
When the button is pressed, the bottom lights on the triple-light fixtures mounted on the traffic pole will begin to flash yellow, telling drivers to slow down. The pedestrians will be able to see a “WAIT” sign illuminate as they prepare to cross.
The flashing yellow light will then become a steady yellow, telling drivers to prepare to stop.
A steady red light from the light fixtures will inform drivers to stop completely as pedestrians cross, informed by a light telling them it’s time to cross.
“The crossing is only about 10 seconds which is not actually long enough to cross the street but then it goes to a flashing hand with a countdown and the motorists see a flashing red. This is a little bit confusing because we’ve never seen this before,” Cariker said, adding the flashing red tells drivers they can pass through the crosswalk as long as no pedestrians are actively crossing the road.
“It’s going to be a little bit of an education with the motorists and a little bit of an education with our folks. We have to get our folks ready for something new. We’re going to put a little more signage out there for our folks on the ground so that they’ll be aware. We’ll continue to push the message out to our students through social media and email and any other way we deem appropriate to get that message out to them.”
Cariker explained, during pedestrian crossings, the lights will hold a steady red for 10 seconds and then begin to flash red for 25 seconds as pedestrians finish crossing.
This is intended to prevent pedestrians from trying to “beat the clock” by entering the crosswalk when the lights are flashing red.
Trustee David Castles expressed a concern foot traffic could pile up during busy hours and 10 seconds may not be enough time for them all to cross safely.
Cariker replied, in total, crossers would have 35 seconds to cross including the time while the lights flash red.
“Is the time to cross negotiable with TxDOT?” trustee Joe Carrington asked.
“I’m working on it,” Cariker replied. “I’ve met with our local engineer out of Longview. He’s supposed to be setting up a meeting with the traffic engineer for District 10. I would really like to make some adjustment. All they would possibly let us make an adjustment on is that time factor of how long it’s ‘walk’, how long it’s ‘caution.’”
Following the meeting, Cariker said security personnel would be onsite at the crosswalk to explain to pedestrians how the system works.
“What we can do, we can explain to our pedestrians (how the system works),” Cariker said.
He added personnel would be at the crosswalk for about the first week of the semester.