New crosswalk runs into problems

Why aren’t the lights blinking?

Students have raised concerns that the newly installed, light-emitting diode crosswalk flashers along West Hampton Drive are already malfunctioning.

Butler University Chief of Police Ben Hunter said he assures students that this isn’t a case of the lights being broken, but rather that the initial programming from the company for the crosswalk lights was incorrect and the university plans to have it fixed as soon as possible.

“The lighting program actually came from the factory programmed incorrectly,” Hunter said. “All of the lights are individually functioning exactly how they are supposed to, but because of the program malfunction, the lights aren’t communicating properly which is why you see one lighting up one moment and five the next.”

Hunter said the department has been waiting several weeks to receive the new program and once it is received, Butler Information Technology will work through the issues.

“We actually knew the program was incorrect when the crosswalk was installed,” Hunter said. “But we wanted to go ahead and install, then reprogram.

“The company is very embarrassed of the issue and is working with us to fix it as efficiently as possible.”

Hunter said the new crosswalk along Hampton Drive between Residential College and Ross Hall was installed as part of the city’s resurfacing project this summer and cost between $10,000 and 15,000. It was paid for by the city.

The crosswalk was not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Hunter said. With five incoming sight-impaired students, the need for the crosswalk to be updated was brought to the department’s attention.

In addition, he said Butler University Student Housing also wanted to make it more visual in order to create a safer environment for students.

Hunter said he appointed Lindsey Birt, Butler environmental health and safety specialist, to discover the most cost-effective and innovative way to update the crosswalk in order to make it ADA compliant and safer for students in general.

“This is our highest volume crosswalk,” Hunter said. “We worked to come up with innovative ideas on
how we could improve the crosswalk and lessen the potential danger to students crossing at this point in the road.”

The new crosswalk is made from plastic that has been heated with the asphalt and then stamped in to look like bricks, Hunter said. He said this was the cheapest and most visually pleasing route in meeting the regulations. Hunter said that in addition to the resurfacing, there were also six flashing lights installed along the crosswalk. The lights are solar powered and are programmed by Wi-Fi, which Hunter said was done to help with running costs and sustainability.

He said that the crosswalk is fairly modern for a Midwest area because of the harsher climates.

The Hampton Drive crosswalk is experimental for the city of Indianapolis as well.

“My biggest concern is the durability with the weather,” Hunter said. “They are Ironstar products, meaning they are snow-plow safe.”

As far as the effectiveness, Hunter said the point of the crosswalk is to alert drivers of the area.

“The intent is to grab your attention,” Hunter said. “Though it’s grabbing your attention, I don’t really think is possible for the lighting and resurfacing to be distracting at the crosswalk.”

Hunter said that traffic studies have shown that drivers are more likely to be cautious in areas where their attention is drawn towards the road and this is why the lights were installed along the crosswalk.

Junior Eric Buenger has lived in Ross Hall for three years now as a Resident Assistant and has experienced the crosswalk before and after the renovation.

He said he has seen and experienced many close calls between pedestrian and driver in the past, but those problems seem to be lessened with the resurfacing.

“I have noticed that drivers are now more cautious when approaching the crosswalk,” Buenger said. “So the lights are doing what they’re supposed to.

“However, they’ve been here nearly a month and are already malfunctioning. “The last time I used the lights at the crosswalk, only one of the six lights lit up.”

Another Ross Hall RA, junior Abby Covert, said she thinks the crosswalk has lost its effectiveness now that drivers are used to it and because it isn’t working properly.

“I think it was helpful for about the first two weeks,” she said. “People didn’t know what it was, they just saw bright yellow lights flashing and so they would slow down.

“But now that it has been a while since it was installed, most of the lights aren’t working, therefore defeating the purpose of the crosswalk anyway.”

Covert said that her residents are in agreement that the importance of maintaining the cross walk should be a top priority.

“I talked with a few of my residents and they feel the same way. ‘If it’s not going  to work or they aren’t going to maintain it, then why did Butler waste the money to put it in?’ is what one of them said.

“Mostly, I just think it was a good safety precaution but upkeep is a must in order for it to be effective.”

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