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Flashing crosswalks in Oak Harbor aids pedestrians

A pedestrian sign flashes warning motorists of people crossing Whidbey Avenue at the corner of Izett Street. The city of Oak Harbor partnered with the Oak Harbor School District to better illuminate crosswalks near schools in town. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
A pedestrian sign flashes warning motorists of people crossing Whidbey Avenue at the corner of Izett Street. The city of Oak Harbor partnered with the Oak Harbor School District to better illuminate crosswalks near schools in town.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Oak Harbor city and school officials were taken by surprise by an accident last week where a motorist struck a middle school student walking in a crosswalk.

The crosswalk, located on Whidbey Avenue at the intersection of Izett Street near North Whidbey Middle School, is one of a number of crossings near schools in town that received lighted upgrades last summer. Those lights are designed to make crosswalks more visible to motorists and safer for pedestrians. Those upgrades cost $360,000.

“It was a surprise to us, we didn’t expect it,” said Joe Stowell, engineer for the City of Oak Harbor. He said staff is waiting for the police report and they are looking to see if anything else needs to be done to make the intersection safer.

On Friday morning, an Oak Harbor resident was trying to make a left turn from Izett Street onto Whidbey Avenue when he hit the 13-year-old North Whidbey Middle School seventh-grader. When the driver realized what happened, he dialed 911 and stayed with the girl.

During the summer, workers installed new solar-powered LED pedestrian signs. In addition, solar-powered lights were embedded in the roadway that flash to warn motorists of a pedestrian, who has to push a button at the crosswalk to activate the flashing lights. Similar lights were installed at the intersections of Loerland Drive and Roeder Drive, SW Heller Street and SW Eighth Avenue, W. Whidbey Avenue and Jib Street, W. Whidbey Avenue and Fairhaven Drive, SE Midway Boulevard at Oak Harbor Elementary School, E. Whidbey Avenue and SE Fifth Avenue.

“They’ve been working quite well,” Stowell said.

The majority of the cost for the crosswalks was funded through a Safe Routes to School’s Grant administered by the Washington State Department of Transportation that totaled $335,000.

The Oak Harbor School District secured the grant and worked with the city on the crosswalk improvements. The city of Oak Harbor contributed nearly $50,000 from traffic impact fees for the project.

Bruce Worley, director of facilities support services for the Oak Harbor School District, said the grant paid for crosswalk improvements, digital speed limit readouts, and a new sidewalk near Broadview Elementary.

The school district contributed $310,000 for the improvements.

The remainder of the grant funded the publication of safe route to schools maps, development of a safety curriculum and safety events.

Worley said Whidbey Avenue and Regatta Drive have been the biggest problem areas for motorists speeding through school zones.

He said the lighted crosswalks, along with the flashing speed limit signs that were installed several years ago, have been helpful in getting motorists to slow down.

 

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