Highway gets high-tech crossing | AspenTimes.com

Highway gets high-tech crossing

Tim Mutrie

A section of Highway 82 in Holland Hills will serve as a test site for perhaps the nation’s first-ever “intelligent” pedestrian-detection system.

It’s aim is to warn motorists when people are trying to cross the highway near the Bishop Drive bus stop.

Using three, fixed digital video cameras, some high-tech computers and programs, and “black out” road signs that will only display warnings when pedestrians are attempting to cross the highway, Colorado Department of Transportation officials hope to make the dangerous stretch of highway more pedestrian friendly. CDOT officials hope to have the equipment in place by the end of this week.

Halley Jacobs, a young Aspen girl, died in September 1999 from injuries she sustained in a December 1998 accident there. Jacobs was attempting to cross Highway 82 to get to the upvalley bus stop when she was struck by a car.

Before it’s implemented, the pedestrian-detection system must first be tested, though officials hope to have the system functioning sometime in April, according to Ralph Trapani, Highway 82 project manager. He added that law enforcement officers will also be keeping a watchful eye on the system.

“We’re going into a new frontier with this, nothing like this has ever been done before,” said Dave Hammonds, CDOT traffic operations manager for the Western Slope. “It involves some programming that we’ve never used before, so we’re going to have to experiment a little bit, but we’ve got high expectations for it.”

When pedestrians are waiting or attempting to cross Highway 82 near the bus stop, the video cameras should recognize that and trigger the black signs – placed 500 feet in front of the bus stops on both sides of the highway – which will then flash a warning. The sign display will read something to the effect of: “Pedestrians crossing, reduce speed,” Hammonds said.

“That should give motorists adequate time to slow down,” he said.

Trapani explained that in the Holland Hills area, other pedestrian-safety measures, such as an overpass or underpass, a crossing light or a safe median, were not design options due to the low numbers of pedestrians who cross at Bishop Drive. Designers avoid using crosswalks on four-lane highways because it gives pedestrians a false sense of security, he added.

“When we were trying to resolve some of the issues surrounding the pedestrian crossing there, we ran out of tricks,” he said. “So we started talking about using some kind of intelligent system to warn drivers. But we couldn’t find a system like that anywhere, so we’ve been working in-house to develop one.

“This is more or less a scientific effort to try to and provide some refuge for pedestrians,” he continued, “and I think we’re going to be able to change driver behavior.”

The project, which is the culmination of about two years of work by CDOT traffic specialists and other consultants, will cost about $50,000, Hammonds said.

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