By Terri Harber
New flashing lights should make it safer for walkers and bicyclists on the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway to cross busy Campbell Street just north of Geiser-Pollman Park.
The city plans to install four of the rapidly flashing beacons, two near each sidewalk and two in the pedestrian island in the middle of the street, said City Manager Mike Kee.
Currently there are signs warning drivers that pedestrians could be crossing Campbell, which is one of the city's most-traveled thoroughfares.
The flashing lights will be more visible to drivers, however,
Pedestrians walking up to one of the the signs can push a button to activate the lights. The lights will automatically turn off when no one's crossing.
The idea is to provide more notice to drivers as they approach the crosswalk. While it would make it safer for pedestrians, it also would lessen the chances of unaware drivers rear-ending vehicles that have already stopped for the walkers.
Baker City Councilor Roger Coles said he and his wife, Dawn, were hurt about a week ago while they were stopped at that crosswalk. Another vehicle struck them from behind.
Later, as the Coleses were seeking medical treatment and dealing with their insurance agent, they found out the location is often mentioned as an accident site - especially for rear-end collisions, Roger Coles said.
The Baker City Police Department combed through records to find out whether there was a pattern of collisions at that location. There have been nine reported during the past 10 years, said Police Chief Wyn Lohner.
The total could be higher, because not all accidents are reported to police.
Kee and Lohner also noted that it's a section of the city where there's a great deal of activity. A lot of vehicles come from Main Street as well as from the interstate and travel through that crosswalk. There are businesses nearby as well as the park, LAMP and the Baker County Public Library.
"You're processing a lot of information in a short distance," Lohner said. The idea is "to get motorists to pay attention."
Kee said the city began looking into making the crossing more visible for drivers last year, after some residents asked about the problem.
The city was concerned about the cost. Initially suggested was a flagging device that pedestrians could wave, similar to one that officials saw in Sun Valley, Idaho.
The Oregon Department of Transportation rejected the flag idea, preferring something more attention-getting: flashing beacons, Kee said.
ODOT intends to pay for the beacons. The $30,000 price tag also includes surrounding upgrades. The city would have to do some of the work on the concrete.
"Placement is going to be important," Lohner said. "It'll have to be placed so drivers can see it from as far away as possible."
Coles said during Tuesday's City Council meeting that he hopes the beacons will go up before someone gets seriously injured or killed there.
"I can't imagine we'll be sitting on this," he said.