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Beacons bring to light school zones

Drivers passing by Enumclaw elementary schools will be reminded to slow down thanks to a transportation grant that purchased flashing school zone beacons.

Enumclaw School District crews recently installed the caution beacons on Kibler and McDougall avenues in Enumclaw and Baker Street in Black Diamond. County crews will install a fourth set at 244th Southeast in front of Sunrise Elementary School. Westwood Elementary School, which is located in King County, was the only elementary school that did not receive a light. The district is also working with the state to get an additional light in Black Diamond on state Route 169. Flashing beacons were previously installed on SR 169 in Enumclaw near Thunder Mountain Middle School.

According to school district Facilities Coordinator Peter French, who oversaw the project, district leaders applied for and received a grant for the beacons from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

“It was an opportunity to make the roads a little bit safer for the kids and the funding was available from the state,” French said.

According to Traffic Safety Commission Program Director Brian Jones, grants are awarded from the School Zone Safety Account to elementary schools every two years. More than 150 schools received the award for flashing lights this year, and, Jones said, the Traffic Safety Commission was able to award nearly all of the $1.5 million available.

The money, Jones explained, comes from tickets written in school zones, and noted often these fines are doubled.

“Flashing lights were shown to be the most effective signage to reduce speeds in school zones, thus minimizing the potential injury to pedestrians in the event of a collision,” Jones said.

This is the third time in the program’s six-year history, the awards have been handed out. Approximately 65 percent of the state’s elementary schools have flashing lights.

Jones said almost every school that applied received a grant. Grants take into consideration traffic speed, traffic volume, collision counts in those areas and law enforcement’s willingness to patrol those areas.

The grant covers the cost of the beacons, $37,000 for Enumclaw, but does not cover the cost of installation.

In Black Diamond the school district got a hand with the installation from Black Diamond Public Works.

“Dan Dal Santo and his crew were very helpful, spending several days digging holes, pouring concrete, and raising the signs,” French said. “The job would have been much more difficult without their assistance, and their commitment to getting the job done is very much appreciated.”

The district also got a hand from Rand Black, transportation engineer for the city of Enumclaw, who worked with the district to site the beacons on Kibler Avenue and helped with the permitting process.

The beacons are solar powered, contain a global positioning system device and a cell connection that allow them to be programmed remotely through the Internet.

There are no cameras attached, however, French said, they do provide police with a standard for enforcement.

The beacons are currently set to flash from 8:30 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday and 3:30 to 4 p.m. each afternoon. They have been adjusted for Friday’s early release. The beacons will be programmed not to flash on holidays and whenever school is not in session.

French said they’ve had a few issues, but are working through those problems.

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