Flashy footwork

Pedestrians crossing 32nd Street near the Rosedale Rapids Aquatic Center and new Fort Dodge Middle School now have a little extra security as they enter the busy roadway on the northeast side of Fort Dodge.

A new crosswalk system is in place just north of the intersection of 32nd Street and 10th Avenue North, said Stephanie Houk Sheetz, senior planner with the city of Fort Dodge. The system includes a new Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon, which will aid pedestrians crossing the street and warn drivers to use caution as they enter the crossing zone.

The RRFB device includes a light bar with LED lighting mounted below the pedestrian crossing signs. The lights are activated by the pedestrian by pressing a push button, operating long enough to allow them to cross the street.

Houk Sheetz said the lights should be a reminder for drivers to use caution.

“Drivers should yield to pedestrians when the lights are flashing,” she said.

The purchase of the RRFB system was made possible by a Community Transformation Grant presented to the Webster County Health Department through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Health Department has been utilizing portions of the $88,000 grant to help make various improvements in the following areas: worksites, community, health care, chronic disease and coalition.

“With all of the new trails around Fort Dodge, we wanted to have a safer walking and biking environment,” said Lindsay Kavanaugh, community wellness coordinator with the Webster County Health Department. “We hope that this will be an extra warning to oncoming traffic that there may be a pedestrian or a biker in the crosswalk.”

Prior to installing the signals, different areas around town were examined to determine the best location for their placement.

Kavanaugh said the 32nd Street location was chosen because of aquatic center traffic and an expected increase in both pedestrian and vehicle traffic near the new middle school once the school year begins.

After selecting a location, the city of Fort Dodge paid for the labor, installation and ramp at the crosswalk.

Although they hope the crosswalk and signs will keep drivers, bikers and walkers safe, Houk Sheetz said parents should still stress the importance of using caution when crossing the street to their children.

“Parents should still stress to their kids not to assume that a car will stop for them,” she said.

Kavanaugh said the Health Department plans to continue focusing on trails and transportation in the future, using grant funds to place bicycle racks at various locations and also the possible placement of another RRFD signal.

“We are planning several projects for next year with funds from the grant,” said Kavanaugh.