Oakland County roads officials agreed to seek approval to install technologically advanced traffic signals at a West Bloomfield roundabout as a result of settlement of a lawsuit contending that pedestrians with disabilities are at danger without such devices.
Attorney Richard Bernstein, who lives in Birmingham and has offices in Farmington Hills, contended in the lawsuit that blind and disabled pedestrians were at danger.
The Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) on Thursday agreed with Bernstein, and said it would seek approval from state and federal traffic organizations on installing High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) beacons at the roundabout at the intersection of 14 Mile and Farmington roads.
The move could lead to the implementation of technologically advanced traffic signals at an upcoming construction project,
HAWK beacons were implemented at the Maple Road/Drake Road roundabout in 2009, and rectangular rapid-flashing beacons (RRFBs) were implemented at the Maple Road/Farmington Road intersection in 2010.
Bernstein contended in the lawsuit — filed by Garret Gersin of Oak Park, who is blind; Jason Turkish of Huntington Woods, who is blind; and Michael Harris of Westland, who uses a wheelchair — that pedestrian safety was compromised at the two Maple Road intersections with roundabouts.
“This case is a real benchmark for how roundabouts will be used in the future so the disabled, blind pedestrians, bike riders, senior citizens and parents with their children can safely cross the streets at roundabouts,” Bernstein said in a press release issued Friday.
The suit was originally filed at the U.S. District Court in Detroit in 2007. The problem stems from traffic never coming to a complete stop at a roundabout, said Bernstein in a 2007 story published by the West Bloomfield Beacon.
“We are very pleased with how cooperative the Road Commission for Oakland County has been as we work together to resolve the issue," Bernstein continued.
“Safety is our top priority,” said RCOC Board Chairman Eric Wilson in a press release issued Friday. “That includes the safety of all road system users, including pedestrians. We’re pleased to be on the cutting edge of new pedestrian-safety advancements, like the HAWK crosswalk beacons.”
The settlement is based on a study completed in October by Western Michigan University and North Carolina State University. According to the RCOC release, the study concluded that the HAWK beacons were more effective at reducing crossing delays for both sighted and blind pedestrians than the RRFBs.
“The analyses presented in this report,” the study reads, “offers evidence that the installation of (HAWK beacons) … reduced delays and crossing risk for blind participants at both the two-lane and three-lane crosswalks at the Maple and Drake roundabout.”
“We wanted to find out which of these pedestrian crosswalk beacons was more beneficial, and this study has done that for us,” Wilson said.
Other terms of the agreement include:
- Continued monitoring the RRFB at the Maple/Farmington intersection to determine its effectiveness.
- Implementation of the current traffic signal technology (RRFB or HAWK) or new/improved pedestrian signals/technology, as it becomes available, to new construction projects within the Northwestern Connector Project, as approved by the Federal Highway Administration and Michigan Department of Transportation.