There’s good news for pedestrians dodging vehicles on Main Street in Williamsville.
The state Department of Transportation has given the green light to install a new type of traffic signal that will help pedestrians cross midblock, Williamsville officials announced Tuesday.
The DOT approved plans for the so-called HAWK signal, or high-intensity activated crosswalk beacon, which is viewed by Williamsville officials as a critical piece of the plan to calm traffic along the heavily traveled route and make Main Street more walkable in the heart of the village.
Williamsville officials made the announcement at a news conference in Village Hall.
“I feel a little more safe and a little less nervous for pedestrians in the Village of Williamsville today,” Trustee Daniel O. DeLano said. “Thank you to the DOT for realizing this is an integral part of our ‘Picture Main Street’ initiative and for making it safer for our residents and visitors.”
The HAWK signal would be installed in the 5500 block of Main – the village core – in front of the Williamsville Branch Library, between Village Hall and Town Hall. That section of Main also has Island Park to the south and Glen Park to the north.
The problem in this area, according to village officials, is that the nearest crosswalks are at Cayuga Road to the west and Mill Street to the east – about a fifth of a mile from each other – both of which are hazardous crossings for pedestrians.
More than 45,000 vehicles use Main each day, officials said.
The HAWK signal, however, is activated by pedestrians using a push button. The signal first flashes yellow to drivers, then displays a steady yellow and, finally, steady red over a period of several seconds, allowing pedestrians to cross.
There’s also a timer on the signal prohibiting pedestrians from continuously pushing the button and stopping traffic along Main.
Williamsville officials compare the signal to having a traffic officer periodically stopping vehicles on Main, allowing people to cross back and forth safely, similar to what happens during the Old Home Days at Island Park.
“The Village of Williamsville will be a safer place to live, work and play,” Williamsville Mayor Brian J. Kulpa said.
HAWK signals are common in the Southwest. There are none in the Buffalo area, although Erie County has plans to install one on Sheridan Drive, near Belmont Avenue, in the Town of Tonawanda.
In January, Williamsville received $2.5 million in federal funds for its “Picture Main Street” project, which includes a series of improvements along Main to make the busy street more pedestrian- and business-friendly.
Williamsville officials, however, were getting vibes from the state that it may not approve the HAWK signal – a crucial component to the village project – and held a news conference earlier this month to publicly call on the DOT to allow the installation of the new device.
The HAWK signal was the last major hurdle for the Main Street project, which is currently in the design phase, village officials said. Construction is scheduled to being in 2015.