So, you thought a HAWK was Just a Bird?

Thomas Ruff, PE, PTOE By: Thomas Ruff, PE, PTOE

Soon you will see a new type of “HAWK” right here in downtown Richmond at the intersection of Belvidere Street and Rowe Street, next to the Virginia War Memorial.  The City of Richmond is installing one of the region’s very first HAWK (High-Intensity Activated CrossWalK) signals and Timmons Group is designing this innovative amenity, aimed at improving pedestrian and bicycle safety.  The HAWK signal will provide a unique intersection crossing method for pedestrians, improving access across Belvidere Street between VCU’s campus, the Oregon Hill neighborhood, the Virginia War Memorial, the Historic Tredegar Iron Works Visitor’s Center, Brown’s Island, Belle Isle, and the James River Park System.

So, what do you need to know as a pedestrian to safely navigate the new HAWK signal?

As a pedestrian, crossing the street at a HAWK signal is no different than using a crosswalk at most intersections throughout the City.  Pedestrian signals typically display a “DON’T WALK” indicator to alert pedestrians that it is not safe to cross the street.   Once a pedestrian activates the signal via a pushbutton, the HAWK signal stops drivers using flashing yellow, then solid yellow, and then solid red traffic lights.  While the signal remains solid red and stops all vehicles, the “WALK” indicator activates and alerts pedestrians that it is safe to enter the intersection.  After the “WALK” countdown has completed, the HAWK signal will cycle through alternating red flashing lights and revert to the “DON’T WALK” indicator.  At that time, traffic may proceed, assuming all pedestrians have safely exited the roadway.

How about as a driver approaching the HAWK signal?

As a driver, there are several differences between a HAWK signal and a regular traffic signal.  Unlike a regular traffic signal, the face of the HAWK is dark until a pedestrian presses the pushbutton and indicates they want to cross.  When the beacon is dark, the driver can proceed as if there is no traffic signal.  Once the HAWK signal is activated, a flashing yellow light is followed by a solid yellow light, indicating that there is a pedestrian waiting to cross and the driver should be prepared to stop.  When the solid red light activates next, drivers are required to stop, like at any other traffic signal.  Once the crosswalk is clear of pedestrians, the signal will flash red to indicate that drivers can proceed if it is safe to do so and there are no other pedestrians present.  A driver approaching the flashing red signal is expected to come to a complete stop and treat the intersection like a 4-way stop, checking for any pedestrian traffic and proceeding with caution if the crosswalk is clear.  The signal will return to dark until the next pedestrian actuation.  Don’t worry, there will be signs posted explaining operations to drivers.

It may take a little getting used to, but the HAWK signal will benefit all pedestrians in the area.  HAWK signals are common throughout the US but so far has seen limited use in Virginia.  The City of Richmond, along with other localities, are seeing HAWK signals as a proven method to improve pedestrian visibility and safety at intersections with higher posted speeds that do not meet the requirements for installing a traditional traffic signal.  HAWK signals have proven to increase safety for pedestrians by grabbing the attention of motorists.

Timmons Group is providing design of the HAWK signal, fiber connections, crosswalks, pavement markings, sidewalk improvements, drainage improvements, curb replacements, and installation of ADA-compliant wheelchair ramps.  H & B Surveying and Mapping provided the survey and utility designations for the project.  Timmons Group is also providing environmental services, utility coordination, and construction administration for the project.  The project has a planned completion date of Fall 2021.

For more information and to see a HAWK signal in action, follow this link: