San Luis Obispo County may be low on streetlights but its Public Works Department will be rejuvenating crosswalks in Avila Beach, Cayucos, and Nipomo with beacon systems.
"These are opportunities to improve safety before we get to accidents. These areas were prioritized because of their higher pedestrian use over other areas," said Ryan Monie, the project manager.
- Screenshot From The SLO County Department Of Public Works Press Release
- EYES ON THE LIGHTS An updated beacon system at the parking lot by the Bob Jones Bike Trail Crossing will make sure lights flash only when pedestrians use it, making it a safer warning for motorists.
The renovations have been in the pipeline since 2017. Scheduled to start on Dec. 1, the project is expected to be complete by April 2022 depending on the weather. The targeted crosswalks are located on Ontario Road at the Bob Jones Bike Trail Crossing (Avila Beach), between Cayucos Drive and D Street on N. Ocean Avenue (Cayucos), and the Dana Elementary mid-block crosswalk on Tefft Street (Nipomo).
Instead of adding lights to crosswalks, why not put up more streetlights? Monie told New Times that it's a balancing act. His office prioritizes intersections based on trends and statistics of collisions in each region.
"There are definitely a lot of advocacy groups that are promoting dark skies. We've worked with some of them before when we do grant applications. Some intersections don't warrant lights," he said. "We also don't have all the money in the world to do it. There's some people that want them [streetlights] and some people that don't—if it's too bright for their houses. We try to keep safety as the top priority. It's a tough answer."
For instance, Monie's team identified the parking lot by the Bob Jones trail as a popular area for pedestrians, but it also contains an older beacon system that consistently flashes, which could lead to accidents.
"The concept behind the new system is the lights won't be flashing unless there's someone [a pedestrian] actually there. That way, motorists won't get desensitized to seeing flashing lights," Monie said.
The updated warning lights, called rapid rectangular flashing beacons, would be activated by new pedestrian push buttons. Monie said they're slowly becoming more fashionable, such as those near Morro Bay High School, because of the lights' "erratic, eye-catching" nature.
The crosswalks project is funded by a Highway Safety Improvement Program grant worth $224,700. Monie said that the county used up the entire amount and supplemented it with local road funds. The county paid Souza Construction almost $290,000 to carry out the crosswalk improvements. Δ