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La Grande Observer Daily paper 09/19/14

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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Improved safety now just one push of a button away

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Improved safety now just one push of a button away

New rectangular flashing beacons light up as Cove students walk through the crosswalk on the road between their high school and elementary school. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
New rectangular flashing beacons light up as Cove students walk through the crosswalk on the road between their high school and elementary school. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)

Dim, overcast conditions have often prevailed in Cove over the past two weeks while children have traveled to school in the morning. 

Still, the mornings in one sense have been brighter than ever. 

 

Four rectangular rapid flashing beacons began operating at and near the crosswalk between Cove Elementary School and Cove High School on Highway 237 about 1-1/2 weeks ago.

The bright beacons appear to have a noticeable impact on traffic, causing some drivers to stop who normally might continue driving through the crosswalk.

“It’s quite a bit better. You don’t have to wait for all the cars (because they are now stopping),” said Cove eighth-grader Mathew Baker.

Work on getting the beacons started about two years ago and installation work began this fall.

“There has been a buzz about this for a while,” said Cove Principal Mat Miles. “There has been an anticipation that something was going to happen.”

The beacons cost $75,000 to install. The total cost was covered by money from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Quick Fix Fund.

The beacons are activated when either of the buttons located on both sides of the crosswalk are pushed. Several high school students forgot to push the buttons initially but not Cove’s grade school students. The children so enjoyed activating the system that they argued over who got the opportunity to do it, said Cove School District Superintendent Bruce Neil.

“Some were saying, ‘I want to do it,’ then others said, ‘No I want to,’” Neil said. 

Fifth-grader Amelia Jones is among the students who enjoys activating the system. 

Cove junior Hannah Hulse helped with the project of installing new cross walk signals in Cove. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
Cove junior Hannah Hulse helped with the project of installing new cross walk signals in Cove. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
 

“I love pushing buttons,’’ the Cove student said.

Once activated, beacons flash on both sides of the crosswalk and at two sites near the crosswalk where westbound drivers on Highway 237 cannot yet see it.

One site is 300 feet away near the high school football field, and the other is about 100 feet away at the Dollars Market corner. 

The alert provided by these beacons prevent drivers coming around the corner from unexpectedly finding themselves on top of pedestrians, said Patty McClure of ODOT. McClure, a member of the Cove School Board, served as one of the adult project managers for the flashing beacon work along with Don Fine and Lisa Hayes, also of ODOT.

The need for the beacons became apparent about two years ago when two children were almost hit by a vehicle while on the crosswalk. Representatives from the school district, the city and ODOT met soon after the near tragedy to discuss what could be done to make the crosswalk safer. The representatives agreed that rectangular rapid flashing beacons were needed and began working to obtain them. 

“It is a great opportunity to promote safety especially after the near miss,” said Cove High School junior Hannah Hulse. 

The beacons serve a crosswalk that has about 1,000 crossings each school day. Vehicles roll through the crosswalk about 1,500 times a day, according to Hayes. 

Neil is delighted with how the beacons are operating and the impact they are making.

“We want to do anything we can to promote safety at school and in the community,” the superintendent said. 

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