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PennDOT, police use new traffic devices to highlight pedestrian safety

May 8, 2012

Shawn Houck (left), PennDOT District 10 press safety officer, demonstrates to Punxsutawney Borough Police Officers Kirk Brudnock (center) and Matt Conrad (right), along with Chief Tom Fedigan how the new pedestrian crosswalk system functions on East Mahoning Street. (Photo by Larry McGuire/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Pedestrian safety has a new look in downtown Punxsutawney with the completion of PennDOT’s traffic signal project.

“The new signals may not seem important to many people, but for someone who has some type of special needs, it’s very important for them to get across the street safely,” Shawn Houck, PennDOT District 10 press safety officer, said during a downtown pedestrian safety effort Tuesday.

He said with the new system, even a child can now press a button and know where the exact physical location he or she is in case he or she becomes lost or needs assistance.

Other features of the new pedestrian signals include a countdown, which lets pedestrians know how much time they have to get across the road.

Also, there are physical characteristics to the system for those who have vision problems, but can hear, touch and feel.

“Punxsutawney borough is now up to date with this state-of-the art traffic and pedestrian signals and meets all of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements,” he said. “If an area resident has special needs, or someone is visiting who is not familiar with Punxsy, they can now get across the street with all of these new accommodations.”

Houck said the new traffic signals will also help traffic flow more quickly and much more safely through downtown.

“Even though there is a countdown with the new pedestrian signals, motorists who are entering a crosswalk area basically still have to slow down, stop and give that pedestrian the right of way even if the countdown has expired,” he said.

Houck said that the addition of “No Turn On Red” signs at many of the intersections also makes it safer for pedestrians.

“The signs were added to the intersections due to the limited visibility at most of the intersections, and pedestrians won’t have conflicts with vehicles that formerly were able to turn right on red,” Houck said.

“Some of the motorists on the sidestreets will suffer a little bit of extended time waiting at the light, but once they are able to proceed, drivers will make up their time by having to deal with less traffic.”
Punxsy Police Chief Tom Fedigan said the main purpose for the new signals is pedestrian safety.

“This is a project that the borough and PennDOT had planned for a long time and was recently completed,” he said, adding that improved lighting, signals and newly-painted crosswalks will also help.

Fedigan said a recent traffic study found that next to Interstate 80, Route 119 through Punxsy is among the state’s busiest traveled roads.

“It’s hard to believe, but it’s true, and I’m hoping the campaign we’re doing today will help to educate people on how to be safe,” he said.

“Once we’ve completed the education, we’re going to do some enforcement. So, with the combination of the two, we’re hoping people realize the importance of pedestrian safety.”

He said when pedestrians have the right-of-way, they still must be cautious.

“Just because they have the right-of-way and are in the crosswalks doesn’t mean they’ll be safe,” he said, adding that it’s important that they are aware of their surroundings and should try to make eye contact with drivers.

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