When Hilmar children return to school next year, they will be a little safer getting there with the recent addition of a new, state-of-the-art crosswalk system.
On May 17, Hilmar officially introduced the new HAWK Beacon Pedestrian Crosswalk at State Route 165 on Lander Avenue, across from Elim Elementary and Hilmar High campuses. HAWK stands for High Intensity Activated Crosswalk and is aimed at improving pedestrian and traffic safety on the busy street.
The HAWK system is not like any other crosswalk. It uses three lights arranged in a triangle -- two red on top, one yellow on the bottom. Pedestrians push a button to activate the flashing yellow light, and after a certain amount of time, the flashing stops and the yellow and both red lights instruct drivers to stop. Motorists who fail to yield when the lights are illuminated can be cited and fined.
The project has been in the works since 2019, and is a collaboration between Hilmar Unified School District, Caltrans, California Highway Patrol, the Hilmar Chamber of Commerce, Assemblyman Adam Gray, Hilmar parents and other community members.
Gray explained that the new crosswalk could have been completed sooner if not for the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues. Nevertheless, he expressed joy upon finally making the idea into a reality.
“It took us three years to get this installed, but if it can allow children to get across Highway 165 more safely, it will be worth the wait,” he said.
Over the past two decades, traffic has increased on SR 165 through Hilmar, leading many to realize that children were becoming more at-risk.
“As our communities grow, traffic patterns change and sometimes the streets become more dangerous,” said Gray. “This isn’t happening just in Hilmar, but in a lot of towns and cities in the Valley. We have to help find solutions and ways to pay for them. That’s one of the things state governments should be good at.”
CHP Captain Becky Burton spoke at the grand opening ceremony, giving praise to the parents and community members who helped make throughout the process. Like Gray, she also stressed the importance of communication and partnership between residents and government in order to make positive change in communities.
According to the HUSD, there will be extensive efforts to educate students, families and community members about the new crosswalk system and how to use it.
“Kids shouldn’t have to put their lives in danger just to get school on time,” Gray said. “The HAWK beacon has been a life-saver in communities throughout the West. I’m glad we could get one installed here.”