After a delay of two months, three pedestrian-hybrid beacons made their debut in Old Worthington.
Approved in early 2016, the beacons are intended to assist pedestrians crossing High Street near the Village Green, Short Street and Stafford Avenue.Video •Worthington service director Dan Whited explains how to use the city's new pedestrian-hybrid beacons.
They were activated April 10.
City officials were planning to activate them in mid-February, but the date was pushed back three times because of logistical issues.
To operate the crosswalks, pedestrians press a button and wait for a traditional "walk" signal. The lights, which are coordinated with nearby traffic signals, turn yellow to warn drivers to stop before turning solid red. When the red lights begin flashing, drivers can proceed, but only if the crosswalk is clear.
The red light will last for 30 seconds.
According to Worthington officials, the beacons are designed to "make it safer and more efficient for pedestrians to cross busy streets" by giving detailed signals to drivers and pedestrians at particularly busy crossings.
The beacons replace flashing crosswalk lights on High Street near the Village Green and Short Street.
For some residents, the beacons are a welcome safety addition.
David and Giannalisa Schumer often walk along High Street with their 4-week-old daughter, Tosca, and 3-year-old son, Luca. They said they would be fine with the signals being "all over the place."
David Schumer said he is "glad it's a light" rather than a sign or traditional crossing.
"I don't think people always yield when it's just flashing lights or a sign," Giannalisa Schumer said. "I think they think it's optional."
She said she thinks the beacons will make crossing the street safer, especially for children.
Some pedestrians and drivers seemed confused by the signals on their first day of operation.
From 2 to 3 p.m. April 10, multiple pedestrians could be observed pressing the button to activate the signals and walking away before the light could change.
In other instances, motorists never stopped for the red light or stopped and continued on during the solid-red lights when they did not see any pedestrians.
Dan Whited, the city's service and engineering director, said the confusion is to be expected early on, and "that's why we'll have the police down there during busy times" to help people adjust and draw attention to the change.
He said he is concerned about drivers and pedestrians and wants both groups to be aware of how the signals work.
"They're both important and they're both related to each other," he said.
Whited said Worthington Division of Police officers would not stop drivers for failing to obey the signs until June 3.
Between June 3 and July 1, a grace period will allow officers to issue warnings to those breaking the rules. Officers also will provide drivers an instructional pamphlet along with the warning.
Starting in July, police will issue drivers the same ticket they would receive for running a red light if they drive through the crosswalk while the solid-red lights are displayed.
From January to April, Whited blamed the ever-changing debut date on manufacturing delays and construction issues.
Despite the delays, Whited said, the project remained within its $188,000 budget for contractor Complete General Construction.
That expenditure included about $30,000 for installation of the signals.
Throughout the process, city staff members have been trying to relay to residents how the beacons would operate through a series of outreach efforts.
Whited's department has installed boxes on the beacon poles that contain brochures on how to operate the signals, while communications officials have promoted the beacons on social media and sent flyers to residents.
Whited previously said he was confident that the beacons would be self-explanatory regardless of whether pedestrians have read about the signals before they use them.
"There will be nice large signs with pretty clear indicators for drivers, and then you've got the standard stop sign and hand signals with countdown timers for pedestrians," he said in January. I think they stand out pretty well and will be pretty obvious."