State examining crosswalk in Hadley where boy hit

  • Hopkins Academy students cross Russell Street (Route 9) after placing signs at the crosswalk where a boy was struck and seriously injured by a vehicle on his way to school last month.. Gazette file photo

Staff Writer
Friday, November 25, 2022

HADLEY — At a Route 9 crosswalk where a Hopkins Academy student was seriously injured when struck by a hit-and-run vehicle last month, Hadley police cycled the crossing lights on the state highway 10 times on Wednesday.

Five of the times the High-Intensity Activated Cross-Walk, or HAWK light, was turned on, indicating the presence of a pedestrian in the middle of the street, police officers pulled over vehicles for failing to obey the red light, Police Chief Michael Mason said.

“I have never liked the light because I think it’s confusing,” Mason told the Select Board at its Wednesday meeting. “It’s pretty evident it’s confusing judging by how many people drive through the light.”

The cross arm for the signals is fairly high above the ground and include a sign with instructions on what to do when the lights are flashing red versus solid red. When the lights flash, a driver is allowed to continue as long as no pedestrian is in the crosswalk.

As Mason’s department continues enforcement at the crosswalk with plainclothes officers, state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, informed town officials that the state Department of Transportation will welcome input from Hadley officials to improve the crossing.

The 13-year-old Hadley boy was seriously injured when he was hit by a vehicle, believed to be a white 2004 Ford Econoline model, that fled the scene Oct. 11 around 7:30 a.m. Authorities are still looking for the van and the driver.

The boy was expected to be home from the hospital last weekend.

Comerford said she and state Rep. Dan Carey spoke to MassDOT Division 2 Director Patty Leavenworth, and informed the board that a meeting can be held involving state and town officials.

“The director conveyed that they did send a team out shortly after the accident to look at the intersection and to do what is called brightening at the intersection,” Comerford said.

That brightening included putting fresh paint on the crosswalk.

Select Board member Joyce Chunglo said town officials didn’t want a crosswalk there to begin with, since the location, near the Hadley Juvenile Court and Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, is close enough to town center, where dedicated crossings are available at an intersection. Chunglo said the crosswalk is also in a place where vehicles are already “flying” as they leave the town center.

“But the DOT insisted on having that crosswalk there to begin with, and they went forward and did that,” Chunglo said.

Chunglo said the state may be installing more similar signals as the widening project on Route 9 from the town center to the shopping malls continues. “I would prefer that they don’t do that,” Chunglo said.

Mason confirmed that another HAWK signal will go on South Maple Street, at the Norwottuck Rail Trail crossing, but that others crosswalks planned for Route 9 will be more conventional.

In addition to danger for pedestrians, Mason said he worries that queuing vehicles at the location can also cause problems.

Select Board member Amy Parsons said that there will always be challenges due to the heavy traffic on the corridor.

Mason said he is looking for more speed boards from the state and to collect data about safety.

But before the recent tragedy, Mason said he doesn’t recall hearing any official complaints about the crossing or having to deal with any incidents. The state, he said, might provide data showing that the crossing is as safe as can be.

“They may come in and give us information that suggests that this is your best option, you either leave this in, or take out the crosswalk altogether,” Mason said.