The Mille Lacs Band’s Planning and Project Management Department is planning a HAWK cross- walk at Highway 169 and Ataage Drive in District I to provide a safer way for pedestrians to cross from the schools, government buildings, and homes on the east side of the highway to Grand Casino Mille Lacs, Grand Market, and neighborhoods on the west side.
For an explanation of how the crosswalk functions, see mbo-2006-048_hawkpedestriancrossing_6-5x16_final.
HAWK is short for High-intensity Activated Cross WalK. The crosswalk is activated by pe- destrians when they want to cross. A flashing yellow light indicates to motorists that someone is waiting to cross, and a double red light tells them they need to stop.
The unique double red signal display above a single yellow light gets the motorist’s attention by the unusual shape of the display cluster.
The pedestrian will see a raised hand indicating ”Don’t Walk” when the crosswalk is not in use, and also when the yellow light is flashing. After the lights turn red and motorists are stopped, pedestrians will see an icon of a walking person and a countdown of seconds remaining to cross.
”We knew the site was a problem area for pedestrian crossings and had approached MnDOT (the Minnesota Department of Transportation) on numerous occasions to do something about it,” said Mike Moilanen, the Band’s Director of Planning and Project Management.
In 2016, the Band partnered with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies and MnDOT’s Office of Transit and Active Transportation to study the location as part of a research project entitled Understanding Pedestrian Travel Behavior and Safety in Rural Settings. (Information about the study can be found at http://www.cts.umn.edu/Research/Pro- jectDetail.html?id=2017034.)
"As part of this study, we were able to install two cameras on the site to count crossing at both the signal and the hole in the fence," said Mike. "The data collected was hard to ignore as over 98 percent of crossers used the opening in the fence and not the controlled intersection. With this data, we were able to finally get local MnDOT support on the project and were successful in obtaining the grant."
A $361,989 MnDOT Transportation Alternatives Grant was awarded for the project. The grant requires a 20 percent local match, but MnDOT agreed to pay the local match, so the project will not require any Band dollars.The HAWK system design is used across the country because it is safer and more effective than traditional crosswalks. You may have seen HAWK crosswalks in St. Cloud and elsewhere. The city of Tucson, Arizona, has more than 60 HAWK systems.
HAWK systems are less costly to build than full-blown traffic signal systems, and they are also more energy-efficient than traditional signal systems, as the vehicle signal heads go black when the system is not in use.
The first phase of the project will begin in mid-August and last about six weeks. This phase will involve the building of signal bases, underground wiring, setting the electrical and signal cabinets, and installing sidewalks and ADA ramps.
The second phase will not occur until November. This will take about three days and will be the actual setting of the signal mask arms.
MnDOT’s central office also helped with camera counts as well as advocating for the project. Michael Petesch, MnDOT’S Pedestrian & Bicyclist Data Coordinator, and Professor Greg Lindsey of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs were instrumental in collecting data and were supportive of the grant application.
A permanent counter installed at the crossing will become part of a statewide network of permanent pedestrian counters.