As essential healthcare providers, hospitals must place a high priority on patient and employee access and safety. When the staff at one of the largest hospital networks in the Kansas City area identified transportation issues that were negatively impacting these priorities, they enlisted engineering support to improve the campuses for drivers and pedestrians.
McClure Engineering Company (MEC) leveraged its experience with traffic studies and transportation safety to provide the hospital system with recommendations that addressed the unique challenges facing two campuses in the Kansas City metro.
“For the campus in Kansas City, a lot of people must cross a busy intersection to visit or work at the hospital,” said Project Engineer Cheryl Bornheimer-Kelley. “There is an S-curve on a hill, which causes reduced sight distances, and with cars coming over the hill quickly, drivers might not see pedestrians until the last minute.”
When designing and presenting solutions, Bornheimer-Kelley and the SKW transportation team worked together with Stormwater Team Leader Matt Eblen, who has worked with the hospital network for 15 years as part of the development services department.
The project began with gathering traffic count data for the intersection on the hospital’s busiest days – Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Based on their analysis of traffic volume, cost, and effectiveness, MEC recommended several options.
The top recommendation was to add pedestrian-activated, LED rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFBs) under pedestrian crosswalk signs. Research by the Center for Education and Research and Safety on the RRFBs have found these beacons have a much higher compliance rate, which is the rate at which drivers slow down or stop to allow pedestrians to cross the street. RRFBs have a compliance rate of more than 80 percent, compared to the 11 percent compliance rate of signs with traditional side-mounted beacons, similar to those currently used at the intersection.
“Because the RRFB flashes brightly and quickly, similar to police car lights, as opposed to a traditional beacon, they get the driver’s attention more quickly and allow drivers time to yield more easily,” said Bornheimer-Kelley. “We also considered raised crosswalks and pedestrian refuge islands, but this was our top choice for this application, because of its effectiveness. The City of Kansas City, Mo., and the hospital staff agreed that the RRFBs would be the best solution for an intersection that has been the site of a serious pedestrian-vehicle crash in the past.”
For the campus in Lee’s Summit, a campus-wide traffic circulation study focused on the two private drives that create an inner and outer loop around the hospital, as well as a delay study at the drop-off areas near the entrances to the hospital.
“Surprisingly, we found that people drive evenly in both directions around the inner and outer loops, so it was important to maintain the current two-way traffic flow,” said Bornheimer-Kelley. “As we discussed some of our initial findings on traffic circulation and delays, it was evident from the feedback that safety was the highest priority, so we did some additional work to address these concerns.”
The second part of the assessment included considering the impact of additional buildings or floors being added to the campus, as well as looking at the pedestrian crossings and speeds around the campus.
“When we assessed the signage, we found that there was inconsistency in the types of signs used and some were less visible than others,” said Bornheimer-Kelley.
MEC recommended using the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) approved signs consistently around the hospital to improve the visibility and compliance with stop signs for pedestrian crossings. Additionally, based on MEC’s recommendations, the hospital is planning to add striping to the private drives and extending the flat curb entry at the main entrance and the diagnostics center.
“[Lee’s Summit] is a very busy campus, so helping people get where they are going quickly and safely is very important,” said Eblen. “When we presented our findings to the board, they were very engaged in the project. It’s rewarding to work with an organization that places such a high priority on health and wellbeing, and help them make their campuses better, easier and safer for employees and patients alike.”