HAWK Signal Design

Discover the benefits of High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) traffic signals and see the first one in the Village of Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, in action. raSmith traffic project manager John Bruggeman, P.E., PTOE, explains how this type of signal works and provides a safer pedestrian experience. The HAWK signal shown in this video is one of many types of traffic solutions designed by our experienced transportation engineers.

A HAWK signal is a special type of traffic control device that’s used to assist pedestrians with safely crossing a roadway. A HAWK signal stands for a High Intensity Activated Crosswalk, and it’s also known as a pedestrian hybrid signal.

raSmith has worked on this HAWK signal here in Mount Pleasant. We both designed and had it constructed in 2020. A HAWK signal allows for pedestrians to safely cross the roadway by providing drivers with a red indication that requires them to stop. A pedestrian will push the pushbutton and wait for the pedestrian signal to change from “don’t walk” to “walk.” And when it changes to “walk,” a pedestrian can cross while the vehicular traffic is stopped.

There’s a series of indications that a HAWK signal displays. When the signal is activated, it will change to a flashing yellow, and drivers should prepare to stop. Then it will change to steady yellow to indicate drivers should stop if they can safely do so. And then it will change to steady red, where drivers must stop. After the pedestrian walk time is finished, it will change to flashing red, where drivers must proceed with caution after stopping, and the crosswalk is clear.

HAWK signals can range widely by application; a ballpark range is $40,000 to $100,000 per installation. This compares to other devices such as a rapid rectangular flashing beacon that ranges from $10,000 to $20,000. There are other devices such as pavement markings and signs that cost substantially less, but you’ll also see a much lower driver compliance rate in terms of yielding to pedestrians.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation currently offers several different grant funding programs to municipalities. A couple are the Transportation Alternatives Program (or TAP funds) and Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality (or CMAQ funding). Those programs are aimed at encouraging non-motorized vehicle travel and also improving air quality. There are several HAWK signal installations throughout the state—Grafton, Eau Claire, Allouez, Milwaukee, and here in Mount Pleasant. So they are statewide and growing in popularity.