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Citing recent collisions, city installs flashing lights near downtown social service providers

UPDATED: Thu., July 5, 2018, 10:03 p.m.

To make it safer for pedestrians to cross the street, the city has installed new LED crosswalk signs at the intersections of Browne Street and Pacific Avenue and Division Street and  Pacific. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
To make it safer for pedestrians to cross the street, the city has installed new LED crosswalk signs at the intersections of Browne Street and Pacific Avenue and Division Street and Pacific. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

The city of Spokane has installed flashing lights at crosswalks near a cluster of downtown social service providers in an effort to reduce collisions and injuries to pedestrians.

The crosswalks are on Pacific Avenue where it crosses Browne and Division streets, busy arterials where collisions are frequent. Newly installed signs mark the crosswalk with flashing yellow LED lights, powered by a small solar panel.

“I hope it will reduce accidents, especially pedestrian-vehicle accidents,” Mayor David Condon said.

Since Jan. 1, 2015, there have been 19 collisions at Browne, including eight with injuries, and 13 on Division, including seven injuries, according to city data.

That does not include the most recent crash on Tuesday, when a pedestrian abruptly ran into traffic. The driver in the left lane did not see the man and hit him, according to a news release from the Spokane Police Department.

On Browne Street, cars travel south up a slight hill after emerging from under the railroad viaduct. Condon said those factors lead to less visibility, and drivers are often moving quickly because the street leads to an on-ramp for Interstate 90.

“It’s a very unique intersection,” Condon said.

The Browne crosswalk leads to the House of Charity, Spokane’s largest adult homeless shelter; Bridge Press Cellars is across the street. The Division crosswalk leads to Frontier Behavioral Health’s main campus, which provides mental health services for adults.

Part of the challenge with the intersections is that people with mental health problems may run or step into the street abruptly and outside the marked crosswalk, Catholic Charities director Rob McCann said. But those issues are less common than drivers simply ignoring pedestrians.

Catholic Charities operates House of Charity and owns several other apartment buildings and offices in the area.

Rear-end collisions are also common, as drivers brake quickly to avoid hitting someone already in the crosswalk, McCann said.

“I think there will be a learning curve with the new flashers but that they will make an enormous impact,” McCann said in an email. “Kudos to the city and the mayor for making it happen when other administrations before him said no.”

Condon said the city decided to install the lights after being approached by several citizens asking about the possibility. The city had already done traffic studies in the intersection, and Condon said the improvement fit with other work the city is doing to improve pedestrian safety and road usage by adding things like crosswalk bump-outs and removing parking spots near the interstate ramps to improve visibility.

Catholic Charities and neighboring businesses were involved in discussions, Condon said, but the issue was brought to his attention by constituents’ emails.

The lights were installed for a cost of $7,000, city spokesman Brian Coddington said.


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