ATWATER -- Concern about crosswalk safety has led city officials to take it to the streets.
Over the past 18 months, the city has paid for six lighted crosswalks, which cost about $12,000 each, said Assistant City Manager Stan Feathers. There are 11 total in the city, and two more will be installed soon.
The crosswalk improvements work with LED lights that illuminate the crossing signs and the crosswalk itself with the push of a button so drivers can better see if someone's in the street, he said.
The cost does add up, but city officials think it's a small price to pay for the good that they've done.
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The newest lighted crosswalk was introduced with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday afternoon in front of Atwater High School.
Councilman Jeff Rivero, who helped spearhead the project, has seen the lighted crosswalks put to use twice while driving, he said. In both instances, he didn't see a pedestrian waiting to cross, but the lights caught his eye immediately.
Five people were killed while crossing the street from 2001 to 2008, Rivero said. Since then, there have been two minor street-crossing injuries, but no deaths.
Mayor Pro Tem Joe Rivero, a member of the city's Public Safety Committee, doesn't think those numbers are coincidental, but rather indicative of the city's focus on making the streets safer for pedestrians.
"It's just a continuation of the city's commitment to the safety of everyone in the city," he said.
Funding for lighted crosswalks comes out of the general fund, Jeff Rivero said. Their importance is too high to wait for grants.
Electricity for the latest lighted crosswalk in front of Atwater High is paid for by the high school district, he added.
The cost has declined in recent years, said Councilman Nelson Crabb, a member of the city's Audit and Finance Committee.
City employees installed the technology to help defray the cost and avoid using private contractors, Feathers noted.
The effort to improve safety isn't limited to crosswalks, Jeff Rivero said. The city is also installing electronic speed signs in front of all the schools, and Public Works employees have been repainting school zone markers.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.