City could receive $2 million grant to improve pedestrian safety

Man crossing crosswalk
Crosswalk at the corner of MLK Jr. Boulevard and Rio Grande Street. (Marc Suarez/KXAN News)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In the past two years nearly 60 people in Austin have died from being hit by a car while crossing the street. On Thursday, Austin city council will vote on $1.9 million in grant funds from the Texas Department of Transportation in an effort to make it safer to walk across the street.

The city is looking to install 500 countdown timers at intersections throughout the city. Laura Dierenfield, the Active Transportation and Street Design Manager with the city’s Transportation Department said once the funding is approved they will take a year to study which intersections should receive the timers. She said they want to make sure they understand where accidents are occurring, why, and what will be the best method at that intersection to reduce crashes because countdown timers may not be the right answer. Studies have shown it reduces auto pedestrian crashes by up to 25%.

The funding would also go towards six Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons. Those are currently found on Barton Springs Rd., South Congress and South Lamar Blvd. Pedestrians push a button and a light flashes and turns red so cars stop and you can cross safely. The city will study putting those in along Manchaca, Pleasant Valley and Airport Blvd. – as well as additional ones on Congress.

Twelve intersections will be studied for what’s called Accessible Pedestrian Signals. These help the hearing impaired with an audible indication of when it’s safe to cross.

The overall goal is to have zero auto pedestrian accidents.

“Our strategy with this project is to put as many countdown timers as we can out into the city of Austin’s transportation system so we are trying to get as many countdown timers installed,” says Dierenfield. “We are trying to get a countdown timer at every intersection in the city.”

Statistics from the Austin Police Department show deaths from auto pedestrian accidents haven’t changed much in the past two years. In 2015, 30 people died and last year 28.

Currently city officials are working on a Austin Pedestrian Safety Action Plan which studies the areas of the city being impacted the most by auto pedestrian crashes and deaths and the best methods to prevent it.

 

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