Charlottesville Working on Solution for Market Street Crosswalks

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Pedestrian crossing along Market Street in Charlottesville Pedestrian crossing along Market Street in Charlottesville
Brennen Duncan Brennen Duncan

Charlottesville Neighborhood and Development Services (NDS) has been working with the Board of Architectural Review on a design for lighted crosswalks that will complement the historic nature of the area.

But, NDS is not sure whether the lights are the best option for the city.

The beacons used to light crosswalks on East Market Street were removed during the summer. The city said the lights embedded into the pavement were expensive to maintain: It cost $3,000 to $5,000 every time a bulb went out.

“Not to mention the traffic control needed to get into the road, detour traffic around,” added city traffic engineer Brennen Duncan.

Nothing has replaced the lights for the crosswalks, and for some, that creates a safety issue. Charlottesville prides itself on being a walkable city. Pedestrians have the right of way, and that's easy during the day when you can see people trying to cross the street. But come night, people become nearly invisible to cars making it dangerous for walkers, and scary for drivers.

Charlottesville is facing hurdles looking for a replacement. The old design is a "no" for the Board of Architectural Review because of its look.

“We're changing the supports. The regular supports for those rapid-flashing beacons were the silver 6-inch visually obtrusive. We've reduced that to a 4-inch black powder coated support,” Duncan said.

The engineer said he wants to do a traffic study to see if the lights are even warranted. Duncan believes the flashing lights may have caused bad habits for drivers over the past 10 years they were in the city.

“We overuse the rapid-flashing beacons now. Traffic has become accustomed to stopping at those, and not at regular crosswalks. So we are trying to only install them where they are warranted so we're not overusing them,” said Duncan.

Neighborhood and Development Services will meet with the Board of Architecture Review again at the end of the month to go over designs. NDS hopes to have a traffic survey done by the end of the spring to make a recommendation on whether Charlottesville should re-install the lighting beacons.