Commission gives go-ahead for audible crosswalk signals

The Transportation Commission voted July 15 to use federal grant funds to pay for audible crosswalk signals downtown that will help blind pedestrians cross streets more safely.

The commission voted to recommend that the City Council use Community Development Block Grant funds for the project and directed the city to work with Ashland-based Disabled United in Direct Empowerment to determine where the signals should be placed.

The council previously allocated $27,625 of the grant funds to the Public Works Department. The crosswalk improvements will likely cost less than that, but details about the project have yet to be decided, said Jim Olson, assistant city engineer.

The grant funds should be used to improve public facilities that serve people with low-to-moderate incomes or those with handicaps, according to the city.

The audible signals will make noises from both sides of the street when it's safe to cross. The signals will beep if traffic is heading east or west on the street and will chirp if traffic runs north or south, Olson said.

The crosswalk improvements will help blind people cross streets that aren't perpendicular, he said.

"Ashland is not laid out perpendicular and nice and neat like some cities," Olson said. "So sometimes it's hard for a blind individual to find the correct way through there. If we have a noise that they can center in on, it's much safer for them."

The Oregon Department of Transportation must approve the project, before the audible signals are installed, he said.

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