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
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.
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.
ACHD traffic engineers are studying how motorists respond to the
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