Assemblymember Adam Gray leads efforts to make Hilmar children safer

For immediate release:
  • Mike Dunbar
  • Media Advisor
  • (209) 404-5569

HILMAR – Students crossing State Route 165 at Lander Avenue in Hilmar will be safer starting Tuesday.

That’s when Caltrans will unveil the installation of a HAWK – or High Intensity Activated Crosswalk—beacon near Elim Elementary School. The official ribbon cutting will be Tuesday, May 17 at 11 a.m. at 7677 State Route 165 and Lander Avenue.

“Kids shouldn’t have to put their lives in danger just to get school on time,” said Assemblymember Adam Gray, D-Merced, who was instrumental in developing the solution to the dangerous road crossing and securing state funding to complete the project. “The HAWK beacon has been a life-saver in communities throughout the West. I’m glad we could get one installed here.”

Over the past two decades, traffic has increased on SR 165 through Hilmar, increasingly putting children attending Elim Elementary in jeopardy. About three years ago, parents and other members of the community approached Assemblymember Gray about finding a solution.

He brought parents, Caltrans, the Chamber of Commerce, the school district and even the water board to the table to find a solution. They settled on the HAWK beacon which uses three lights arranged in a triangle -- two red on top, one yellow on the bottom. Arriving at the crosswalk, pedestrians push a button to activate the flashing yellow light. After a timed interval, the flashing stops and the yellow and both red lights are instructing drivers to stop. Traditional crosswalk signals closer to eye level tell pedestrians – in this case, elementary school students – when it is safe to cross.

Motorists who fail to yield when the lights are illuminated can be cited and fined.

The HAWK beacon was developed by a traffic-safety experts in Arizona in 2000 and has been growing in use since 2010.

“It took us 3 years to get this installed,” said Gray, who noted that the pandemic and supply-chain shortages caused delays. “But if it can allow children to get across Highway 165 more safely, we think it will be worth the wait.”

Gray was optimistic that having established communication between Caltrans and the community, the relationship will continue.

“As our communities grow, traffic patterns change and sometimes the streets become more dangerous,” said Gray. “This isn’t happening just in Hilmar, but in a lot of towns and cities in the Valley. We have to help find solutions and ways to pay for them. That’s one of the things state government should be good at.”

Also expected to attend Tuesday’s unveiling are representatives of the Californian Highway Patrol, Supervisor Lloyd Pareira, Sen. Anna Caballero’s office, Rep. Jim Costa’s office and Caltrans director Dennis Agar.

For more information, contact Caltrans public information officer Skip Allum at 209 948-7176.