Saturday, November 29, 2008

Audible crossings make life easier and much safer for the visually impaired

Often vehicular sounds are sufficient for the visually impaired to determine the onset of the WALK interval and the direction of a crosswalk. However, there are some intersections where geometries, acoustic conditions and traffic control systems make it very difficult for persons who are visually impaired to obtain the cues necessary to cross streets independently and safely. At these intersections, handicap accessible traffic signals can be helpful to pedestrians.

Audible traffic signals work in conjunction with the standard WALK/DON'T WALK visual signals. The intersection will have speakers which project two different sounds, one of which is projected when the walk signal flashes to safely cross the street. The other sound is heard when the perpendicular street can be crossed.

Thanks to collaboration between the NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Chautauqua Blind Association (CBA), additional audible traffic signals have been placed at four new locations in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties since spring.

With joint efforts from Regional Traffic Engineer Thomas Messana, P.E., Angelo Borgese, P.E., Regional Traffic Operations, and Sally Minchener, CBA's Orientation and Mobility Instructor pedestrian and motorists' safety has been improved.

The new signals in Chautauqua County are located in the city of Dunkirk at the intersections of Route 5 (Lake Shore Drive) and Central Avenue and Route 5 and Brigham Road; and in the village of Silver Creek at the intersection of Route 20 (Main Street) and Central Avenue. In Cattaraugus County in the city of Salamanca, a signal has been installed at the intersections of Route 417 at North and South Main streets.

The first audible crossing signal was placed in Chautauqua County in 1996 in the Village of Falconer at the intersection of Routes 394 (Main Street) and Route 380 (Work Street). Since then, two audible signals have been installed in the village of Fredonia: one at Route 20 and Eagle Street and the other at Route 20 and Water and Temple streets.

Mayville, the County seat of Chautauqua County, has an audible crossing at the intersections of Routes 394 and 430.

The city of Olean hosts Cattaraugus County's first audible crossing at the intersection of Routes 16 (Union Street) and 417 (State Street).

Minchener and the Chautauqua Blind Association are currently working with the DOT and the City of Jamestown to place numerous audible signals within the city limits. Chautauqua Blind Association is a United Way funded program.


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