Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Look up! Not a bird, not a plane – it’s a HAWK signal – a hero in crosswalk safety!

By Sarah Hannon-Nein

In a nod to the winged heroes of our imagination, akin to Batman's iconic bat signal piercing the night sky, a unique hero has surfaced.

The HAWK signal is designed to increase safety at crosswalks by controlling traffic flow
and providing clear visual signals for both drivers and pedestrians.

Armed with flashing lights and the authority to direct traffic, Washington State Department of Transportation with their contractor, Thompson Bros. Excavating, proudly unveils the successful installation of a HAWK Signal on State Route 500 (also known as Northeast Fourth Plain Boulevard), at Northeast 166th Avenue.

Contractor crews successfully installed a HAWK (High intensity Activated crossWalK)
pedestrian signal across SR 500 at Northeast 166th Avenue. 

What is a HAWK signal?

A HAWK (High intensity Activated crossWalK) signal is an effective visual system designed to grab drivers’ attention and make it safer for people to cross the road on foot or on wheels. It also makes traffic flow smoother for drivers. Unlike traditional traffic signals, a HAWK signal is activated and operates only when a pedestrian pushes the crossing button. When there are no pedestrians, vehicles move without interruption.

When a person presses the button on the HAWK signal, it will first turn yellow, then red, and finally to flashing red. Drivers should treat these lights just like any other traffic signal. Yellow means prepare to stop, red means stop. When the signal is flashing red, drivers can drive through the crossing area only if it is completely safe to do so without posing any risk to pedestrians.

A pedestrian push button allows pedestrians to activate the signal and provides reassurance they will receive a crossing indication soon.

Pedestrians can activate the HAWK signal by pushing the button at either end of the crossing. The lights on the HAWK signal will indicate when it is safe to cross. Even with the HAWK signal, it is still important for pedestrians to stay focused and be cautious of potential conflicts with vehicles. Drivers making right or left turns across the crosswalk might not always notice pedestrians.

As part of the project, our crews have also constructed a new shared-use path and a marked crossing. This path and crossing make it safer for pedestrians traveling to Pioneer Elementary School and Frontier Middle School from the neighborhoods south of SR 500. Additionally, crews have completed permanent roadway striping to give drivers visible and reflective lane guidance. The new striping means the crossing will be safer for drivers and pedestrians, especially during nighttime driving.

Crews constructed a marked crossing as part of the project, making pedestrian access safer from the neighborhoods south of SR 500 to Pioneer Elementary School and Frontier Middle School on the
north side of the highway.

Thanks to these improvements, funded by the Safe Routes to Schools Program, students walking, biking or using mobility devices to travel to school in the Orchards neighborhood now have a safer path beneath their feet and wheels.

Keep your eyes on the horizon, as the next HAWK signal is scheduled to appear along SR 503/Northeast 117th Avenue, near Prairie High School, later this year.

As Like the iconic “bat signal,” the HAWK signal alerts drivers to pedestrians entering the road. When this signal is activated, slow down and be ready to stop at the crosswalk. Just as Batman protects Gotham, drivers can be heroes too by doing their part to ensure everyone makes it home safely at the end of the day.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Thinking globally, acting locally: South Korean delegation visits us

By Sean Quinn

While we may be an ocean apart, Washington state and South Korea have a lot more in common than you may think. We both have many miles of bike lanes, pedestrian trails, tunneled highways, toll roads, and yes, even roundabouts. We also both have transportation agencies whose goal is to provide safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation options to all. In an effort to foster international collaboration and share best practices in transportation management, we were honored when a delegation from South Korea reached out and asked us to host transportation officials at our Transportation Management Center (TMC) in Shoreline Monday, Jan. 8.

A delegation of 13 South Korean officials from their Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and the Korea Expressway Corporation visited our Transportation Management Center in
Shoreline earlier this year.

In December 2023, a senior manager from the Korea Expressway Corporation, a government-run corporation responsible for South Korea’s toll roads and expressways, contacted us to learn more about the work we do. The corporation, along with the country’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport wanted to learn more about our highways and tunnels to help improve their own underground highway system, all while creating a stronger relationship with an international partner. We said yes to that opportunity, and the arrangements were made.

Tour day

On Monday, Jan. 8, 13 South Korean delegates arrived in Seattle in the afternoon and drove to Shoreline to tour one of our TMCs. Our TMCs are the nerve centers of our highway monitoring and operations, staffed with engineers, technicians, Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) teams, and additional highway management personnel. They’re staffed 24/7, 365 days a year, with people monitoring traffic, directing and supporting incident response, and checking tunnel and tolling operations, to keep our roads clear and traffic flowing. They’re a critical component of coordinated responses to emergencies anywhere in the state.

ITS Operations Engineer David Baker and SR 99 Tunnel ITS Lead Lauren Asher show delegates from the South Korea Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and Korea Expressway Corporation how tunnel operations are handled remotely from the TMC Control Room.

During the tour, the delegates watched a presentation from our TMC and tolling staff, learning more about our road systems, how we monitor the highways in our region and how we work to keep traffic flowing smoothly and safely. Our tolling team also talked about how our electronic tolling system works.

TMC Manager Sayuri Koyamatsu (picture to the left) and Toll Division Lane Systems Operations Engineer James Carothers (right) give presentations to the Korean delegation about daily operations from inside the TMC and Emergency Operations Center. The presentations slides
were translated into Korean.

The delegation next joined staff inside the TMC’s Control Room, the heart and soul of the facility. They gazed in awe at the hundreds of live traffic cameras shown on displays above them and the many workstations we have. Each workstation serves an important purpose, such as public information (where Public Information Officers sit); our radio operator, who handles communications to our crews in the field; and our tunnels operators, who make sure everything is running smoothly in our tunnels, such as the State Route 99 Tunnel, Interstate 5 under the Seattle Convention Center and the I-90 Mount Baker Tunnel and Mercer Island Lid.

ITS Operations Engineer David Baker and SR 99 Tunnel ITS Lead Lauren Asher answer
questions about the SR 99 tunnel from the Korean delegation

The Korean delegation had many questions for our staff from the region’s TMC, toll division and tunnel maintenance team. They asked about the challenges of the day-to-day operation of the SR 99 tunnel, including fire-mitigation measures and groundwater seepage challenges inside of it. They also asked about our traffic management and control strategies, such as our use of ramp meters and digital signage and how tolling collection is done at each end of the tunnel.

Toll Division Lane Systems Operations Manager Michael Severance exchanges gifts with Director General Kim Baesung from South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport

Looking ahead

A key objective of the tour was to facilitate a meaningful exchange of knowledge and expertise between transportation officials from the two nations, and that was certainly met. The cultural exchange between the delegation and our staff fostered a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect. Diplomatic initiatives and delegation visits like this go beyond the immediate goal of knowledge exchange and lay the foundation for long-term partnerships and collaborations.