With so many people crossing busy 27th Street near Dollar General east of Vine Street, the city of Hays Public Works Department will soon install a flashing beacon crosswalk there.


City employees from the surface division can have the crosswalk in place in a matter of weeks, at a cost of well under $20,000, according to Public Works director Jesse Rohr.


“There’s a lot of pedestrian traffic,” Rohr told city commissioners at one of the commission’s regular meetings in late February. “There is no mid-block crossing anywhere within the vicinity there.”


The crosswalk will go in where Sherman Avenue meets 27th Street, Rohr said, to handle foot traffic from Epworth Apartments and Aubel Bickle Park on the north side of 27th, and from the retail and commercial businesses on the south side of 27th.


The finished crossing will be similar to ones at 19th and Hall streets, near Thomas-More Prep Marian High School, and at 22nd and MacArthur Road.


The crossing will include rapid flashing beacons, crosswalk pavement markings and curb ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.


“I drive that section every day and there’s always somebody in the middle of the road, crossing one way or the other,” said Commissioner Michael Berges during discussion at the commission’s Feb. 20 meeting.


“It’s pretty dangerous to cross four lanes of traffic,” added city manager Toby Dougherty.


The flashing beacons cost about $10,000 and should only take a few weeks to get ordered, Rohr said.


“I love that idea,” said Mayor and City Commissioner Shaun Musil. “Is there any concern about speed, people stopping, somebody walking across there, what it’s going to do to traffic?”


“I think there’s always concern, anytime pedestrians are crossing on a major arterial,” Rohr said. “People are doing it now. I think we’re only going to enhance the safety there. Sometimes there’s worry that these can provide a false sense of security with people stopping, but we’ve had good success with this type of signal; this type of flashing beacon is much more visible.”


Dougherty said the flashing beacon crosswalks work well on other streets.


“People seem pretty respectful of the flashing beacons, especially on Hall Street. I see a lot of people crossing over to Dillons and Cerv’s,” Dougherty said. “They’re very visible.”


Berges said the Sherman Avenue crosswalk will help with the jaywalking going on now to get to Dollar General. Now to reach a crosswalk, people would have to go a couple of blocks to get to Indian Trail or up to Vine, he said.


City Commissioner Sandy Jacobs mentioned that 27th Street probably moves faster than other streets with the flashing beacons.


“That area of 27th Street is much more open, longer, people are moving through a little quicker than like Hall, 19th, or 29th,” Jacobs said. “I think we’re doing exactly what you say, we’re making it less risky than it was before. It’s not perfect, but there’s less risk than there was.”


City Commissioner Ron Mellick said he sees kids crossing at night after practice at the park, and running over to Dollar General to buy water. He expects drivers will get used to people crossing in the crosswalk at Sherman, instead of at random places as is done now.


“They could be crossing down in the middle of Epworth, or down Broadway, you never know where it’s going to happen,” Mellick said. “If we put this in, at first it’s going to be ‘Whoa!’ But then you get used to it, that there could be somebody coming across.”


The crosswalk on 27th will have a push-button-activated, solar-powered flashing light and pedestrian sign, making it similar to those installed on Hall street, which Rohr pointed out is three lanes now but used to be four lanes.


“Someday maybe this will become three-lane as well, who knows. My little plug there,” said Rohr, whose reference to the controversial lane change on Hall drew loud groans and laughter from the commission and others at the meeting.


“I didn’t hear that,” Musil said.


“I don’t know who said that,” added Jacobs.


The flashing beacon crosswalk, Rohr noted, is the style that will be used on N. Vine when the roundabout projects are done.


In other plans to make the town more walkable, if money allows, Rohr said the city’s 2020 Street Program may include sidewalk work too.


Public Works has bid a project that includes sidewalk in the 300 block of Elm Street across from Lewis Field Stadium, on E. 27th Street near Chetolah Creek, W. 27th Street near Augusta Lane, and the east side of Canterbury between 17th and 21st streets.