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Westfield to launch crosswalk system at 161st Street, Monon Trail

WESTFIELD (WISH) — A high-intensity activated crosswalk, called a HAWK system, that’s installed at 161st Street on the Monon Trail should begin operation Wednesday.

Angel Ray uses that part of the Monon Trail every week. “It’s very busy. There’s a lot of traffic and there’s just so much going on with the cars. The flow of traffic is just intense.”

Drivers are not supposed to stop, and signs say that, but News 8 on Tuesday watched a few vehicles drive by and wave pedestrians and bicyclists to cross. The city government has spent roughly $100,000 to install a high-intensity, push-button crosswalk system at the trail intersection.

Ray said, “It’s attainable and it’s something that we all have needed for a while, quite some time now.”

Chris McConnell, Westfield’s parks and recreation superintendent, told News 8, “Well, council instructed us that we had to put it in, and it is also to try and help make this interchange a little bit safer. This is probably our busiest interchange. We’re just a couple blocks from U.S. 31 on an off-ramp.”

A similar crosswalk system already operates along Hazel Dell Road.

According to McConnell, pedestrians or bicyclists on the Monon Trail press a button. The crosswalk sign will change to “walk,” giving them about 20 seconds to cross. For drivers, the activated system will go from a flashing yellow light, to a solid yellow, to a double-solid red. Flashing red lights denote the countdown where drivers must stop first. But if a driver, pedestrian or bicyclist is along at the intersection, that person can continue on.

“Solid red means that someone is in the crosswalk, and you do need to stop. The flashing red is the countdown and you need to stop first at the flashing red, but if there’s no one in the intersection, you can go ahead and continue on as a driver,” McConnell said Tuesday.

Stephanie Davis, a Westfield resident, said, “The flashing red lights might be a little confusing for people, but I think once you get used to it, I know the one over at Hazel Dell works really well. So, I think it’s going to be great here.”

Westfield resident Bonnie Miller said, “I see on Nextdoor (app) that a lot of people are against anyone stopping. They feel that the drivers should be trained and the walkers should be trained and just hope for the best, but I like the idea of safety first.”

City administrators said the safest thing would be to completely separate vehicular and pedestrian traffic by putting the trail under the road. They have plans for a grade separation, but that timetable is up in the air.

McConnell said, “Back when (U.S.) 31 was under construction and the road was closed, we took the first step of putting the tunnel lid and the pilings or the steel beams that would end up being the walls under the road. So, there’s not a tunnel here per-se, but the top of the tunnel and the pilings are here and currently we are in design to move forward with the idea of putting a tunnel under 161st Street.”

City administrators said ultimately the City Council will decide whether to move forward with a tunnel project.

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