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Road Safety Audit:Central /Washington Intersection

by Press Release
January 9, 2013

Location #3: Central Street/Washington Street Intersection Area

 

Observations:

There were 23 of the 65 crashes in the study area located at the Central Street/Washington Street intersection and the area immediately to the north and south on Washington Street.  This includes the crosswalk across Washington Street at Central Street and the driveway to the Holliston Superette parking area. Of those crashes, eight were rear-end crashes, several of which involved vehicles stopping for pedestrians.

There were six crashes involving vehicles turning into or out of the Holliston Superette driveway, including one crash in which a cyclist was struck by a car exiting the driveway. Two crashes involved pedestrians that were hit and injured in the crosswalk across Washington Street at Central Street. Two collisions involved vehicles turning to or from Central Street onto Washington Street; both crashes involved left-turning vehicles.

There were three crashes involving parked vehicles or fixed objects. Audit team members expressed concern regarding the safety of pedestrians in the crosswalk across Washington Street. A motorist turning right from Central Street onto Washington Street northbound is looking left to determine whether there is a gap in the northbound traffic, and frequently does not look back to the right to determine whether there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk.

Vehicles turning right from Washington Street northbound onto Central Street appear to be traveling at speeds that are too high over the crosswalk. The stop bar on Central  Street is set back from the intersection, due in part to the crosswalk location, and the buildings on the corner limiting sight distance. A vehicle must creep forward over the crosswalk to improve sight distance in order to complete a turning maneuver. Pedestrians are then forced to walk between or behind a vehicle that has pulled forward over the crosswalk in order to see. The mast arm holding the beacons facing Washington Street southbound is rotated slightly so the beacons are not very visible until a motorist is close to it. The MUTCD notes that a typical application of a warning beacon is as an emphasis for a mid-block crosswalk. This location may be too close to the intersection of Central Street/Washington Street to be considered mid-block.

Although the beacons at this location are centered over the travel lanes in both directions, there are no beacons on either side of Washington Street within the peripheral vision of a motorist. A motorist must look up to see the beacons and then back down to the roadway to perceive whether there is a pedestrian crossing. Team members commented that some drivers don’t stop for a pedestrian waiting to cross even with the beacons flashing. The flashing timing of the beacons doesn’t take into consideration the perception – reaction time and braking distance of a driver and may give a pedestrian a false sense that because they are flashing, it is safe to cross.

It was noted by team members that the Town has placed a police officer at the intersection of Central Street/Washington Street to direct traffic in the past, which provided more order and control at the intersection, improving safety. A team member noted that the Washington Street southbound lane between Central Street and Green Street/Exchange Street is very wide, possibly more than two lanes wide, with no delineation. It was noted that this wide area may provide a refuge for a vehicle turning left out of Central Street when a vehicle continues to travel southbound on Washington Street after a southbound left-turning driver waves the Central Street driver out onto Washington Street.

Team members noted that when the business on the northeast corner of the intersection of Central Street/Washington receives deliveries, the delivery vehicle frequently parks on the north side of Central Street, using the active travel lane, which can cause safety issues with a vehicle turning from Washington Street onto Central Street conflicting with a vehicle traveling west on Central Street.

Potential Enhancements:

1. Consider changes to geometry in the area immediately surrounding the intersection of Central Street. The roadway could be narrowed to shorten crossing distances, possibly widening sidewalks and/or creating angle parking on Washington Street. If angle parking is installed, consider utilizing reverse (or back-in) angle parking, which has many safety benefits compared to head-in angle parking. 

2. Consider changes in lane configuration in concert with or instead of geometric changes on Washington Street between Green Street/Exchange Street and Central Street to define the lane use, particularly in the southbound direction. One option for considering would be the creation of a left-turn lane from Washington Street southbound onto Exchange Street. All options should be the subject of further study.

3. Consider installing a traffic signal at Central Street. A traffic signal would create gaps and improve vehicle and pedestrian safety. A signal at this location would provide the opportunity for an exclusive pedestrian phase, including pedestrian countdown signals. It could also include a crosswalk across the northbound approach of Washington Street, improving opportunities for a pedestrian to cross safely.  A warrant analysis should be performed to determine whether the intersection warrants a signal. A study should be undertaken that considers all three intersections along the corridor to determine what configuration would be optimal to improve safety without adversely impacting capacity.
 

4. Consider relocating the pedestrian crossing to the south side of Central Street to eliminate the threat of a right-turning vehicle from Central Street onto Washington Street not seeing a pedestrian in the crosswalk.

5. Coordinate with the business owners regarding loading areas to prevent the creation of conflict areas. Consider the creation of a part-time loading zone for use by businesses.

6. Install curb extensions at the corners of the intersection encompassing the crosswalk to provide better protection and visibility for pedestrians as well as preventing vehicles from parking too close to the crosswalk and/or corners of the intersection. Several of these locations are currently marked out with pavement markings.

7. Consider adding flashing beacons mounted at the roadside to the existing warning system. The addition of beacons at a height that doesn’t require a driver to look up to the flashing lights and then back to the crosswalk level may increase perception – reaction time, thereby potentially eliminating some of the rear-end crashes.

8. Consider adding a sound and/or light indication to alert a pedestrian that the warning system has been activated.

9. Evaluate the length of time the yellow beacons flash upon pedestrian activation to ensure that the interval is sufficient for a vehicle to perceive that a pedestrian wants to cross and that the pedestrian can complete the crossing at a typical walking speed.

 

 

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Comments (4)

Raised crosswalk/intersections have been installed in recent years throughout Cambridge. The raised section often extends over the entire intersection and is done in brick or stone. Very effective at slowing traffic. If you don't slow down, you'll lose your muffler!

- Joe Jankovsky | 12/30/13 1:46 PM

I have traveled to a few places in the US and abroad which have similar challenges and there are two options additional options. In NH, the use of a rotary is being used to slow down traffic, it seems to me Washington St is wide enough at the Green street area to place one. This would slow traffic at the intersection and provide opportunities for cars coming from all connecting roads access to the intersection with less confusion and risk taking. A second concept is from Holland. At some intersections and cross walks they have a raised area. This is not a speed bump as we currently have, this is a raised area which would stretch the length of a car or a little more. This requires the driver to slow down as not only does the car have to go up, it must also go down. It is very effective from personal experience driving over there. Raising the cross walk would also require vehicles to slow down providing additional safety for pedestrians. It will clearly define crosswalks more than paint. Both are very effective in slowing traffic as well as providing for a safer opportunity for vehicles entering and exiting the intersection and would provide additional safely for pedestrians

- Dube | 12/30/13 7:48 AM

It might be worthy to note that all these studies were done prior to the crosswalks being installed. However we ignored the only recommendation that will fix the issue. We need to install timed lights as Exchange, Central, and Hollis Street. These lights need to work in conjunction to one another. We elected to not do this as it would also require reducing the number of parking spaces in town to require proper queueing of cars turning onto Hollis, Central, and possibly exchange. In addition the neighbors did not want the possible traffic that would occur due to the change to the down town.

- Michael Williams | 12/30/13 6:34 AM

#3 #3 #3 #3 #3!!!!!! And do we need ANOTHER study to tell us what to do?

- Driver AND Pedestrian | 1/10/13 4:00 PM

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