Pedestrian warning system to be installed at Aurora intersection where 12-year-old girl was struck and killed

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AURORA | The city of Aurora is planning on installing a‭ ‬“pedestrian hybrid beacon system”‭ ‬at an intersection where a 12-year-old girl was struck and killed on her way to school in February‭, ‬officials say‭. ‬

The intersection of East Iliff Avenue and South Vaughn Way, where 12 year-old Jenna Solomon was hit by a pickup truck and died days later, is the future site of a pedestrian hybrid beacon system. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

City staffers studied the area near East Iliff Avenue and South Vaughn Way in March and determined the intersection in central Aurora didn’t meet the federal stipulations required for the installation of a new traffic light‭, ‬according to Anna Bunce‭, ‬city traffic manager‭. ‬Neither the area’s crash history nor the typical number of pedestrians and vehicles on the street on an average day were enough to warrant a light in the area‭.‬

‭”‬None of the warrants were even close to being met‭,” ‬Bunce said‭. ‬

Since 2009‭, ‬there have been six collisions involving vehicles and pedestrians or cyclists along Iliff between South Quentin Way‭ ‬to the east and South Xanadu Way to the west‭, ‬according to Bunce‭. ‬The incident earlier this year was the only traffic-related fatality involving a pedestrian in the area in the past decade‭.‬

The city was prompted to study the area near Iliff and Vaughn in February after a pickup truck driver struck Jenna Solomon after‭ ‬she stepped off the‭  ‬north side of the median on Iliff on her way to school the morning of Feb‭. ‬5‭. ‬Solomon died at a local hospital three days later‭, ‬according to Aurora police‭. ‬

The unidentified driver cooperated with authorities and was never charged for his role in the collision‭, ‬according to Aurora Police Lt‭. ‬Jad Lanigan‭.‬

Citizens have implored officials to add a light at the intersection‭, ‬saying the area is unduly dangerous for the hundreds of students who frequent the area on their way to and from the combined campus of Prairie Middle School and Overland High School‭.‬

‭”‬I am so upset that a loss of life prompted this‭,‬”‭ ‬Cyd Carlson‭, ‬a technical writer for a local aerospace firm wrote in an email to The Sentinel‭. “‬I just hope no more lives are lost during the scheduling of this light installation‭.‬”

Carlson‭, ‬who has lived in the nearby Brandychase condominium complex for the past several years‭, ‬said she contacted At-large Aurora City Council Member Allison Hiltz to ask whether the city might add a new traffic signal to the area near Iliff and Vaughn several months before Solomon was killed‭. ‬

Hiltz said she submitted Carlson’s request to city staff on Sept. 24.

“It’s just heartbreaking‭,‬”‭ ‬said Carlson‭, ‬whose adult daughters attended both Prairie and Overland‭. ‬“I know how much parents worry‭, ‬and not all of us can cut out of work early enough to pick up our kids‭, ‬so they’re stuck walking home or riding their bikes‭ ‬‮…‬‭ ‬this is an accident waiting to happen‭.‬”

Another man told Fox31‭ ‬Denver in February that he was struck by a vehicle while crossing the intersection near Iliff and Vaughn‭ ‬five years ago‭. ‬He urged city officials to mitigate the area‭.‬

The new beacon system‭, ‬which was formally funded earlier this spring‭, ‬will likely be up and running next spring‭, ‬according to Bunce‭. ‬She said the removal of trees in the median‭, ‬installation of a new ramp and the light itself will require significant time‭ ‬to install‭. ‬

The city has earmarked‭ $‬450,000‭ ‬for the new traffic beacon‭.‬

While not a bona fide traffic light‭, ‬the new system‭ “‬provides‭ ‬‘walk‭’ ‬and‭ ‬‘don’t walk‭’ ‬indications for pedestrians‭, ‬and requires vehicular traffic to come to a complete stop‭ ‬‮…‬‭ ‬when activated by a pedestrian‭ ‬needing to cross‭,‬”‭ ‬according to Bunce‭. ‬

She said the city has installed several such beacon systems around the city in the past several years‭. ‬The first such system in‭ ‬Aurora was installed about a decade ago near South Harvest Road and East First Avenue to serve the then-new Vista PEAK Exploratory campus‭.‬

When activated‭, ‬the beacon flashes a yellow light‭, ‬then displays a solid yellow light before turning to a solid red light‭, ‬requiring drivers to come to a complete stop‭, ‬according to city documents‭. ‬The signal then flashes a red light‭, ‬which allows for motorists to move through the area after pedestrians have safely crossed the road‭.‬

The new beacon system near Iliff and Vaughn will be installed west of the western Vaughn intersection at a crosswalk in the middle of the block‭.‬

There have been more than a dozen traffic-related fatalities in Aurora so far this year‭, ‬including at least five deaths involving pedestrians‭, ‬according to Aurora police‭.‬