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HAWK walk: Traffic signal helps pedestrians navigate State Street

Published on Thursday, October 4, 2018

By: Bruce Coleman

Beginning Friday, Oct. 5, University of Mississippi Medical Center staff, students, patients and visitors who park in the extreme southern lots surrounding Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium will enjoy an alternate route to safely cross North State Street.

A signal-controlled high-intensity activated crosswalk, HAWK for short, beacon is scheduled to be activated at a new crosswalk at the intersection of Lower East Stadium Drive and North State Street at the southern-most State Street entrance to UMMC.

Although not a traditional intersection for motorists (vehicles leaving the Medical Center via Lower East Stadium Drive are forbidden to make a left turn, for example), the light will stop road traffic at the second UMMC entrance on North State Street whenever needed to allow pedestrians to cross the street safely.

Campus Police members Sgt. Johnny Jenkins, second from left, and Capt. Charles Douglas, second from right, receive information about the new HAWK beacon from Neel-Schaffer engineers Travis McCoy, left, and Mark Sorrell, center, and Hemphill Construction supervisor Mike Morrow.

The new signal, part of a $1.5 million safety project administrated by the Mississippi Department of Transportation and funded by a Mississippi Development Authority grant, will effectively create a second “pedestrian intersection” on North State Street, according to Dr. Jonathan Wilson, UMMC chief administrative officer.

“The Medical Center has been heavily involved with the MDOT in its project to update the traffic signals and crosswalks and boulevard the section of North State Street in front of UMMC,” Wilson said. “This is all being done to make crossing the street much safer for pedestrians.”

“Thousands of pedestrians and about 25,000 motorists use this section of State Street each day,” said Dick Hall, central transportation district commissioner and Mississippi Transportation Commission chair. “The new crosswalk at Lower East Stadium will provide a signal-controlled crossing at a site already used by many pedestrians as an unofficial crossing.”

Unlike a traditional traffic signal, the HAWK beacon will remain dark until activated by pedestrians wishing to cross the street. Motorists approaching the new signal will see a flashing yellow light – signaling them to slow down – two solid red lights – signaling them to stop – or a flashing red light – signaling them to proceed with caution if the crosswalk has been cleared.

Pedestrians wishing to use the HAWK signal to cross North State Street will push a crosswalk button to activate the system. They should not proceed onto the crosswalk until the lighted “red hand” signal has turned into a white “pedestrian crossing” signal. A “countdown” signal will notify them when they must clear the crosswalk for vehicular traffic.

Wilson said locating two traffic signals within several hundred feet of each other should have a noticeable impact on traffic flow in front of the Medical Center campus.

“This signal should help slow traffic, especially during peak times when pedestrians are more likely to be crossing North State Street,” he said. “We want to ensure the safety of everyone who comes to our campus – employees, patients and visitors alike.

“This new crosswalk and traffic signal will help provide an additional layer of safety.”