Downtown pedestrians soon won’t have to guess how much time they have to cross intersections along Broadway.
The city says it will soon begin installing seven new pedestrian signals that count down the seconds before cross traffic gets the green light.
There’s $28,000 budgeted to finance the installation of seven countdown timers on Broadway from Fifth Street east to Hitt Street. The city already has countdown timers at Broadway and Garth Avenue near the Columbia Public Library and at Ninth and Broadway. Another countdown timer on College Avenue at Rollins Street was put in by the state.
A total of 52 of the devices will be going in on Broadway at Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Hitt streets.
City Traffic Engineer Richard Stone said he expects that the installation will begin this month and should be completed within a few weeks.
City engineers have also given the City Council a list of 25 future intersections in line for pedestrian devices that would cost a total of about $150,000, according to a staff report.
The countdown timers work by lighting up and signaling to pedestrians that it is safe to cross. After a few seconds, a red hand flashes as the seconds tick down to show how much time is left to clear the intersection. The time will vary at each intersection.
Columbia Public Library employee John Latham said he “braves” the Broadway crossing at Garth Avenue on a regular basis. Latham said it is important to have the countdown timers because as cars drive out of the downtown area, drivers give less attention to pedestrians.
Gary Sander, who walks with a cane because of a bad back, uses the countdown timers to cross Broadway near the library.
“You know how long before a car might hit you,” he said.
Stone said several factors, including favorable feedback from citizens, downtown signal equipment that’s 20 to 40 years old and the cost of installation, went into the recommendation to the council for additional timers.
The new devices are more expensive than the old crossing signals, but the bulbs they use are more energy efficient. “We’ve got to replace this equipment in the future anyway,” he said.
Steve Kullman, chair of the Bicycle/Pedestrian Commission, said that though costly, the countdown timers are important in places of high pedestrian and vehicle conflict. “It gives them (pedestrians) a sense of security and safety that they can cross.”