‘I want to finish this up:’ Here’s what crosswalk lighting could look like on Hilton Head

5 traffic rules pedestrians should know before crossing the road in S.C.

Is a pedestrian is required to only enter a crosswalk when it is safe to do so? That's one of the important rules of the road guiding the interaction of vehicles and pedestrians that we cover in this video.
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Is a pedestrian is required to only enter a crosswalk when it is safe to do so? That's one of the important rules of the road guiding the interaction of vehicles and pedestrians that we cover in this video.

After months of discussing competing ideas on how to make Hilton Head’s crosswalks safer, town leaders now have a better idea of what overheard lighting will look like.

The town’s design review board said that lighting should mimic a familiar sight for Hilton Head drivers: the brown traffic light mast arms that hang over the city’s intersections.

Since the death of 11-year-old Charli Bobinchuck in June, the intersection at Yacht Cove and U.S. 278 has become an incubator for a town project to light unsignalized crosswalks.

The intergovernmental and public safety committee met to discuss lighting on Thursday — a meeting chairman Bill Harkins said was moved up to expedite the process of lighting.

“I want to finish this up,” Harkins told The Island Packet. “And safety trumps aesthetics.”

At the meeting, urban designer Chris Darnell presented the comments from the design review board, which looked over the plans on Jan. 8.

The board came back with three major comments, Darnell said:

  1. It approved an LED light fixture the town has used in the past for parking lot lighting for the crosswalk at Yacht Cove. Darnell said it was approved because it was “un-intrusive and designed to blend in.”

  2. It said the color and shape of crosswalk lights should be consistent with the bronze traffic light mast arms already in place on the island, although much smaller and thinner.

  3. The lighting fixtures should be consistent with the height of traffic lights on the island to make the area feels more like a pedestrian crossing and less like a lighted highway.

Hilton Head’s design review board suggested that crosswalk lighting match the style of traffic signal mast arms on the island, like this one from 2009.

Scott Liggett, chief engineer for the town, said the town originally developed a $30,000 plan with Palmetto Electric for three light poles at the Yacht Cove crosswalk.

But since the review board suggests shorter, mast arm-style poles, Liggett said the intersection “may need more (poles) if the fixtures are installed lower” to meet S.C. Department of Transportation lighting standards.

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The Yacht Cove project has been billed as a trial run — town leaders said they want to see how lighting affects safety before implementing it at other crosswalks.

“It has always been my understanding that this project was going to be a pilot and then we would evaluate the aesthetics,” council member Tom Lennox said Thursday.

But if the first attempt at lighting doesn’t work out, assistant town manager Josh Gruber said the effort is still not a wasted one.

“I don’t think we have to worry about (wasting money) because regardless of what the ultimate design is, we will have the infrastructure in place,” he said about crosswalk lighting.

Traffic on William Hilton Parkway moves past Yacht Cove Drive, the scene of a fatal accident that claimed the life of 11-year-old Charli Jorden Bobinchuck who was struck by a car in the crosswalk. Staff file.

What’s next?

Liggett said the town will work with a new contractor to come up with a drawing of what the intersection would look like with the new lighting design.

Town Council still has to approve lighting before construction begins, and Harkins said it will go on the next agenda — Feb. 5.

Chairman Harkins, along with committee members Lennox and David Ames, agreed to set up a “complete streets” presentation for council members.

That presentation will be based on the national initiative which advocates for streets designed to serve all users, “including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities,” according to its website.