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Roadside memorials, flashing red crosswalk signals, and flashing yellow arrows

Posted: September 12, 2012 - 12:00am

Safety is a major part of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) mission. It is a consideration in every construction project we develop, and it is a factor in all of our maintenance actions. I would like to share some information with motorists that will assist with safe use of state highways.

At Southeast Region DOT&PF we realize that a traffic fatality is devastating to families and friends, and understand the desire to place memorial objects near the scene of the accident. State law (Title 19, Article 04) acknowledges the importance of highway memorials, and provides for placement of a temporary memorial within the right-of-way for up to two years, provided it is outside the traveled way and does not interfere with the use of the highway, including the visibility of official signs. In order to avoid creating safety concerns, the law requires that the person placing the memorial inform DOT&PF within seven days and provide contact information. The law defines an allowed memorial to be decorations, flags, flowers, and other lightweight objects. If a permanent memorial is desired, an interested party can request the department place a memorial sign. Please note that painting of sidewalks, curbs, or pavement is not allowed, and will be removed by the department to avoid situations that are distracting to motorists and dangerous for those who would place or add to the painting. In taking this action we mean no disrespect to the families and friends involved.

Motorists and pedestrians alike will have noticed that we have added new traffic control devices at certain crosswalks in Juneau. This past March, our second pedestrian hybrid beacon — the HAWK, or high-intensity activated crosswalk — was added at the Glacier Highway entrance to Walmart. It was installed to enhance safety for pedestrians crossing the road at this busy location, and has been getting good use. For drivers, there seems to be some confusion regarding the flashing red portion of the HAWK signal cycle, which occurs at the end of the crossing cycle. The flashing red signal means “stop, and then proceed if clear.” In other words, drivers may proceed after having stopped and either there are no pedestrians in the crosswalk or when the pedestrians have passed by the driver’s lane of travel. If the crosswalk is clear, there is no requirement to wait for the HAWK to complete its flashing red phase and go dark before proceeding.

Also of note is the installation of eight more flashing yellow arrow signals (FYA) at select intersections in the Juneau area. Two intersections in Ketchikan and one in Sitka will also be receiving the FYA signal upgrade. Research demonstrates that flashing yellow arrows are safer, more intuitive than the existing left-turn signals, and can reduce traffic delays at busy intersections. A flashing yellow arrow means turns are permitted, but drivers must first yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians, and then proceed with caution. A complete explanation of these traffic enhancements, including animations, may be linked from the Southeast Region home page: www.dot.alaska.gov/sereg.

Please share this information with fellow motorists and pedestrians, and contact the Southeast Region office if you have questions or concerns.

• Clough is the director of the Southeast Region office of Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

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