FENWICK ISLAND – Fenwick Island has installed two new crosswalk systems in an effort to improve pedestrian safety along Coastal Highway.
Late last month, two new crosswalk lights were installed at the intersections of Bayard Street and Coastal Highway and Oyster Bay Drive and Coastal Highway.
“I think people need to be aware of them,” Councilwoman Vicki Carmean said in a late-June meeting.
In February, the town council voted unanimously to support the installation of the crosswalk lights after learning the town could utilize roughly $26,000 in state Community Transportation Funds to purchase Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB) systems.
Efforts to install the RRFB crosswalk systems began last fall, when town officials met with representatives with the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) to discuss pedestrian safety in Fenwick Island. While DelDOT had presented the town with a plan to place signage at crosswalks, it did not include funding for the RRFB systems.
To that end, town officials asked DelDOT representatives if Fenwick Island could fund the crosswalk systems at the two locations. And after approaching Senator Gerald Hocker and Representative Ron Gray, Fenwick was able to secure Community Transportation Funds.
Because the town agreed to buy the systems, Town Manager Terry Tieman said DelDOT had contractors install the systems.
“Getting them installed was a real benefit to us because DelDOT had contractors working in Bethany and South Bethany come down and install them,” she said.
Carmean, who chairs the Fenwick Island Pedestrian Safety Committee, said the next step is to educate both motorists and pedestrians on how to use the new crosswalk systems.
“The only concern I have is a lot of people aren’t expecting to see them, and they don’t know what to think when they see these flashing lights,” she said.
Acting Police Chief John Devlin, however, said the town would use pedestrian safety grant funding to promote the new crosswalk systems.
“We will educate people as we go along …,” he said. “We received a considerable amount this year, which will help with the new lights.”
Under Delaware code, vehicles must yield the right of way to pedestrians in the crosswalk and are not required to stop until a pedestrian is in the crosswalk. By the same token, pedestrians cannot suddenly leave the curb or any other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle.
To operate the new system, a pedestrian must push the button and cross the roadway when it is safe to do so. The RRFB systems will flash to alert any oncoming vehicles.
Councilman Gardner Bunting told the council last month the town could pursue additional crosswalk systems for other intersections. Tieman agreed.
“We need to do further study and maybe include the police department on where they think the other ones would be needed,” she said.
The town is also working with the private firm Century Engineering to begin the first phase of a sidewalk construction project along Coastal Highway.
“As a result of a teleconference with the company two weeks ago, the town is going to pursue further grant funding,” Carmean said. “I think it is important for everybody to know. So we have to wait until after the state budget is approved. After the meeting with state officials in July we will try to schedule a meeting for the entire committee, and the town will probably begin approaching the business property owners about the final plans.”