HAWK Pedestrian Beacon
Improving safety

There are pedestrian crossing signals in several locations in Ada County but never one like the new "HAWK" beacon. HAWK stands for High-intensity Activated crossWalK beacon. The Ada County Highway District (ACHD) has received approval to use the new type of hybrid beacon at crossing locations in Boise, Eagle and Meridian in an effort to increase pedestrian safety.

The HAWK beacon uses traditional traffic signal heads but in a different configuration, with features that have not been used on any other ACHD signal. The first-built Boise HAWK signal or beacon was constructed in 2008 and is located about 500 feet west of the Cole and Ustick intersection. Several additional HAWKs have been constructed in Ada County and more are planned for the future.

HAWK signal

How it works

When not activated, the beacon is dark. It is activated when a pedestrian pushes the walk button. The HAWK beacon begins flashing yellow to indicate to drivers someone will be using the crosswalk. It then goes to solid yellow like a typical traffic signal, advising drivers to stop if safe to do so. The beacon then turns solid red, requiring drivers to stop at the stop line and remain stopped. Finally, the beacon goes to flashing red, letting drivers know that after coming to a complete stop, they can proceed once the pedestrian has crossed safely. The beacon then turns to the dark condition.

Used successfully in other areas

The HAWK pedestrian crossing beacons have greatly improved pedestrian safety in Tucson, Arizona where it was found that the device substantially improves motorist stopping behavior. The technology has been so successful that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) visited Tucson to look at the crossings and see how well they might work in other cities. Other cities, including Portland, Oregon have also received permission to install and use HAWK beacons. ACHD is one of the latest agencies to get permission to use the HAWK beacon. In 2009, the FHWA included the HAWK beacon in its 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

ACHD manages and maintains all traffic signals and pedestrian crossing controls in Ada County, as part of its duties as a countywide highway district.

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How motorists are responding

ACHD traffic engineers are studying how motorists  respond to the beacons. There have been a variety of reactions from drivers, but for the most part people are able to use the signal effectively. ACHD is working to educate pedestrians and motorists about how the new beacons work. ACHD has also provided police officers with information on how the HAWK beacon operates.


If you'd like to contact ACHD staff about HAWK beacons, please call 387-6140 or or complete
this form: Tell Us.