Could a HAWK make Main Street safer for walkers?

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) – If you have ever walked Main Street in the Village of Williamsville in the daytime, you know it can be a scary place.

But four days out of the year, a designated section of Main Street could be one of the safest places in Upstate New York to cross the street.

During “Old Home Days” from July 8 to July 11, traffic cops are stationed in the street in front of Village Hall, to protect pedestrians.

“If you have tried crossing Main Street, you should try it when there is not police protection here. It is truly a scary situation. We need protection,” announced Basil Piazza, president of the Williamsville Board of Trustees at a Thursday afternoon news conference.

Piazza and other village officials are looking to a “HAWK” for that protection. HAWK is the acronym for High Intensity Activated Crosswalk. It is a set of overhead red and yellow lights, and walk signs at eye level activated by pedestrians at a crosswalk.

Main Street, through Williamsville, is already one of the busiest thoroughfares in all of Upstate New York, with traffic backups on a daily basis. Officials concede a HAWK would slow traffic down even more, but they also say the high tech crosswalk is all about safety.

Main Street is also State Route 5, so state transportation officials would have to install it, and that is part of the rub for activists who want Williamsville to be a more “walkable” village.

“This is not a highway, this is a street through a village,” said George Grasser, president of Partners for a Livable Western New York.

Grasser believes a HAWK can help tame Main Street.

“It acts like a highway because of the wide lanes, and because there is no safe way for people to cross the street.”

Rick Herr of Amherst crossed Main Street with his grandchildren on their way to Old Home Days as police stopped traffic for them.

Herr says the crossing is more dangerous than an intersection nearby where there is already a stoplight, “but I am not sure the answer is putting more ‘quasi-intersections’ in the middle of Main Street.”

Jennifer Kean of Buffalo has lived in Las Vegas where they’ve had HAWK for years, and she likes it.

“It would be safer with kids and bicycles, especially in the village here. I know a lot of kids ride bikes and stuff, so I think it would work really, really well.”

Williamsville is in the midst of a $3 million village improvement project, and officials believe HAWK would help make it more walker-friendly. Initial estimated cost for the high tech crosswalk is about $150,000.

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