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Dr. Delay: Pinging crosswalk signals for blind can be adjusted

Here's a new one: A crosswalk signal installed to assist visually impaired pedestrians is driving occupants of nearby buildings out of their minds. What to do about it was the Doc's challenge of the week. (Actually, we've been working on this one for a couple of weeks, but who's counting, other than the aforementioned building occupants?)

Reader Dan Clark wrote: "I live in a condo at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N and Roosevelt Boulevard. Not too long ago someone installed a very loud crosswalk signal at this intersection. It pings about 60 or 70 times per minute, 24 hours a day. We can hear it from 100 yards or more away. It sounds like someone is banging on a metal pot with a hammer, and is loud enough that we can hear it inside with windows and doors closed. I hear it in my sleep. Can't they turn it down? There is also one on the corner of the intersection where my office is at 118th Avenue N and 31st Court N. Same thing; we can hear it inside the building while working.

"Just because someone is blind does not mean they can't hear. They don't need to have a crosswalk shout at them from half a mile away to find it. Can you please find out who is responsible for making these things so loud and ask them to tone it down?"

Clark also generously offered to arrange to place a portable version of the clanging crosswalk signal in the home or office of whomever is responsible for the volume settings for a few weeks, figuring that might speed along a remedy.

We checked and determined that one of the two signals Clark mentioned is handled by the city of St. Petersburg's traffic signal operations coordinator (the one on King Street N), and the other is managed by Pinellas County Public Works. We contacted the agencies, and both responded with action plans.

Bill Foster, St. Petersburg's traffic signal coordinator, checked with an ADA specialist and the equipment manufacturer and found that there is no standard for the volume of the audible pedestrian detectors.

"However, there are guidelines," Foster wrote in an e-mail. Each location must be evaluated according to the location's ambient noise level, and the volume is set accordingly. Foster checked the city's equipment and found it working correctly and "slightly reduced the volume setting."

Foster also said that the signal has a feature that automatically adjusts its volume according to surrounding noise.

Meg Korakis of Pinellas County Public Works told us that the county's transportation division has gone to the site and checked the components for proper operation. Before any volume adjustment can take place, county engineers will consult with Blind Services and the Florida Department of Transportation to ensure that the auditory signal volume meets the needs of the visually impaired for which it was designed, while ensuring that all state and federal requirements are maintained.

34th Street N

DOT will look at need for overpass caution light

Reader Richard Persson Sr. wrote with an interesting question about U.S. 19, a.k.a. 34th Street N:

"I have wondered why on 34th Street N, just north of 38th Avenue N, no one has ever thought of putting a caution light at the top of the overpass. I have seen these caution lights before where there is a traffic signal at the bottom of a rise or on a sharp curve, and the caution light flashes at the top to warn drivers of the possible stoplight ahead. This would be helpful in the southbound lanes of 34th Street N."

We passed Persson's inquiry on to Kris Carson of the DOT, who told us that they do install such warnings at locations where the traffic signal will surprise motorists. Carson said the agency will review the crash data and evaluate the benefits of having a flashing warning in advance of the 38th Avenue N intersection for southbound traffic.

Until next week, happy and safe motoring!

E-mail Dr. Delay at to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions.

Dr. Delay: Pinging crosswalk signals for blind can be adjusted 08/22/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 28, 2009 8:04pm]
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