For one Village of Williamsville official, attempting a midblock crossing of Main Street has turned into a real-life, harrowing version of the classic 1980s arcade game “Frogger.”
Like the game’s amphibious characters, pedestrians – who risk being ticketed for jaywalking – must navigate heavy traffic on a busy, five-lane thoroughfare to safely cross.
“As pedestrian use of Main Street has become more vibrant over the past couple years, the issue of midblock crossing is becoming more and more prevalent and extremely dangerous, especially at night,” Trustee Daniel O. DeLano said Thursday. “No one should feel like they’re in a ‘Frogger’ game while trying to cross the street.”
DeLano was joined by other village officials in a call for the state Department of Transportation to install in the 5500 block of Main a new type of traffic signal activated by pedestrians.
Known as a HAWK signal, or high-intensity activated crosswalk beacon, the device is activated by a push button. It first flashes yellow to drivers, then displays steady yellow and finally steady red over a period of several seconds.
The signals are common in the Southwest. There are none in Western New York, although Erie County has plans to install one on Sheridan Drive where the Tonawanda Rails-to-Trails project will cross Sheridan near Belmont Avenue, according to the state DOT.
The village included plans for a HAWK signal in its “Picture Main Street” initiative aimed at calming traffic and making the busy street more pedestrian – and business-friendly. But the decision to install one rests with the state DOT because Main is a state thoroughfare.
“This is not a highway; this is a street though a village,” said George R. Grasser, executive director of the nonprofit Partners for a Livable Western New York. “It acts like a highway because of the wide lanes and because there is no safe way for people to cross the street.”
The state DOT conducted traffic counts in June, and the results are being compiled, said DOT spokeswoman Susan S. Surdej. “There is no conclusion at this point,” she said. “I expect in a week or so we would be ready to have a decision and a conclusion to the traffic study.”
But village officials said they feared that because the traffic counts were conducted on a Tuesday and Wednesday, it would not include special events on Thursday nights and Saturdays, when foot and road traffic is increased.
Surdej said the state DOT is aware of the special events. “I believe whatever we come up with will be accurate,” she said.
The 5500 block of Main, in the village core, offers parking and access to Island Park to the south and Glen Park to the north. The nearest crosswalks are at Cayuga Road to the west and Mill Street to the east, but even those can be unsafe because pedestrians have to contend with traffic from four directions, DeLano said.
Amherst police were stopping traffic Thursday afternoon in front of the Municipal Building so people could safely come and go from the annual Old Home Days festival in Island Park. Village officials said a HAWK signal would free up those officers during the four-day festival.
“You should try it when there’s not police protection here,” said Trustee Basil J. Piazza. “It is truly a scary situation. We need protection 24 hours a day with a HAWK signal.”