Hadley’s Route 9 home to new HAWK signal 

  • A new traffic signal device installed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, called a High-Intensity Activated Cross-Walk, or “HAWK,” signal on Russell Street in Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A new traffic signal device installed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, called a High-Intensity Activated Cross walk or "HAWK" signal on Russell Street in Hadley.  —Massachusetts Department of Transportation

Staff Writer
Thursday, September 20, 2018

HADLEY — As a four-lane road bustling with traffic throughout the day, the section of Route 9 west of town center is not an easy place for pedestrians to cross.

But last week’s completion of a new crosswalk will not only promote safety for people walking from one side of the road to the other, it will also minimize delays for those driving along the busy thoroughfare.

Positioned above all four travel lanes, as well as on either side of the road, in front of the Juvenile Courthouse at 116 Russell St. is a new Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon, or High-Intensity Activated Cross-Walk signal. These each feature two red lights at the top with a yellow light below, which remain unlit except when someone is trying to cross the road.

At the sides of the road are conventional “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” signals.

Interim Massachusetts Department of Transportation District 2 Highway Director Peter Cavicchi said in a statement that the state spent $230,000 to install what is called a HAWK signal that is designed to increase safety and access for users of the state highway.

“This signal will offer many new features and will help inform drivers when they must stop at this location and when pedestrians are able to safely cross the road,” Cavicchi said.

DOT spokesman Patrick Marvin said the decision to use the relatively new technology came following a traffic analysis by MassDOT which found the Hadley spot an appropriate location, as well as from community input.

The improved sidewalk replaces two conventional crosswalks, one in front of the Most Holy Redeemer Church at 120 Russell St., and the other at the Phillips 66 gas station at 110 Russell St. The crossing at the gas station was particularly problematic because of its proximity to a bend in the road and poor sight lines for drivers traveling east.

Marvin said MassDOT is aware of about a dozen similar HAWK signals on roads across the state.

The HAWK signals are dark at all times unless activated by a person, while the conventional signals on the side of the road will read “Don’t Walk.” During these periods traffic flows unimpeded.

When a person presses a button to walk across the street, the bottom yellow light on the HAWK signal will begin flashing, letting drivers know that a pedestrian is present and they should slow down. But the pedestrian will not immediately be allowed to cross.

Once the lower yellow light stops flashing and becomes a solid light, all vehicles should prepare to stop. Following this, the upper two red lights on the HAWK signal come on, turning solid and informing operators to stop their vehicles for the pedestrian. At this time, the pedestrian receives a “Walk” alert on the conventional signal and can cross the road.

Before the beacons turn themselves off, the top two red lights on the HAWK signal will flash, and operators must stop before the stop line painted in the road and proceed with caution.  During this time a pedestrian already in the crosswalk continues crossing and will receive a flashing “Don’t Walk” indication and a countdown of the time left to cross the street.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.