Pedestrians still wary at Parade, even with classy crosswalks

New London - When Kenric Hanson pushed the new crosswalk button on Water Street, he heard a voice say, "Cross street with caution. Cars may not stop."

Turns out he wasn't just hearing in his head the sage advice mothers have given to children for years. It was an automated voice coming from a box above the crosswalk between the train station and the Water Street parking garage.

With a push of a button, the voice is activated, recessed circular lights flash in the cobblestone crosswalk and cars are supposed to stop. Trouble is, they often don't.

"I don't think it's user-friendly or pedestrian-friendly,'' Hanson said.

The new crosswalk - and a second one a short distance away, closer to the SEAT bus depot - is part of the
$8.6 million Parade improvement project. Each crosswalk system costs about $150,000.

"What's the point?'' asked Jeffrey Harmon, who pushed the walk button Tuesday morning, heard the voice, and then remained on the curb as traffic continued to flow by. "It's crazy."

Other walkers are avoiding the new crosswalks altogether and dashing across Water Street on new "speed humps" that have white arrows painted across them.

Brent Church, project manager for the Parade project, agreed that the new lighted crosswalks, similar to ones used at airports, have not been successful in stopping traffic. From his office above Zavala restaurant, he sees firsthand the frustration of pedestrians.

What is needed, he said, is a sign in the middle of the road that designates the cobblestone path as a crosswalk, similar to the sign on Eugene O'Neill Drive.

Hanson agreed. He presented the City Council earlier this week with ideas to make the area safer, including installing a HAWK beacon, which stands for "High-intensity Activated Crosswalk." It flashes red lights to traffic when a pedestrian or bicyclist pushes a button.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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