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Montgomery County Activates Newest HAWK Beacon to Improve Pedestrian Safety in Bethesda

For Immediate Release: Monday, December 23, 2019

Montgomery County continued its efforts to keep pedestrians safe when it activated its newest high intensity activated crosswalk (HAWK) beacon in Bethesda where Tuckerman Lane is crossed by the Bethesda Trolley Trail. The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) installed the pedestrian beacon in response to community concerns about the safety of pedestrians.

The beacons align with the priorities of Montgomery County’s Vision Zero plan, which aims to reduce and eventually eliminate traffic-related deaths. The Tuckerman Lane beacon was installed faster than some others because existing poles and power were at the site from a replaced pedestrian warning beacon.

This is the fourth pedestrian beacon of its kind constructed by MCDOT in the County. HAWK beacons flash yellow when a pedestrian presses the signal button, then turn solid yellow and finally red to stop oncoming motorized vehicles; pedestrians are then given a walk signal. Prior to this beacon, the most recent one installed was in Aspen Hill Road between Georgia and Connecticut avenues.

HAWK beacons are an attractive and cost-effective option to meet pedestrian safety needs at mid-block crossings or where the traffic volume at the site is too low to warrant a full signal. In evaluating sites for a HAWK beacon installation, MCDOT considers the volume of pedestrian traffic, the type of roadway, traffic speeds and sightlines.

“This represents the latest milestone in our efforts to increase the walkability of our communities,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “Our residents have a right to safe crossings as they move around the neighborhood, shop and run errands.”

The newest HAWK beacon was installed following neighborhood concerns after a fatal collision involving a pedestrian occurred at Tuckerman Lane and the Bethesda Trolley Trail crossing. The location had been scheduled for an updated signal as part of MCDOT’s modified practice to install HAWK beacons in place of some existing pedestrian flashing signals. HAWK beacons provide better direction to drivers, requiring them to stop at locations where they would otherwise just use “additional caution” under the flashing signals.

Montgomery County’s first HAWK beacon, installed in 2010 on Gude Drive in Rockville, is slated for conversion to a full signal given the length of the pedestrian crossing. Another HAWK beacon, to be installed in Chevy Chase at Willard Avenue and the Hills Plaza, is scheduled to be activated later this winter.

“As part of our ongoing effort to improve pedestrian safety, we are committed to pursuing many types of treatments that are relevant to specific road crossings,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “We have confidence in the effectiveness of the HAWK beacons and will continue to examine areas across the County where they will increase safe crossings as part of the County’s Vision Zero strategy.”

MCDOT is working with the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to encourage assessment of unsignalized crossings on state roads in the County based on MCDOT’s practices. MDOT is currently reevaluating its signalizations to address pedestrian safety concerns.

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Release ID: 19-419
Media Contact: Neil H. Greenberger, 240-777-6532