In summer, U.S. Highway 2 is thick with traffic headed to Glacier National Park. Near one of the park’s entrances, the road runs through the town of Coram, where a crosswalk connects pedestrians to homes and businesses on either side of the busy highway. With little to mark the crossing, cars speed through without stopping or slowing down for pedestrians.
Glacier View 4-H, a community youth club in Coram, has been working to make the crosswalk safer. Its members have begun looking for a mathematical solution to the crosswalk’s problems, with the goal of installing a flashing light at the crossing or moving it to a better location for pedestrians.
The crosswalk in Coram is the main place for pedestrians to cross that part of the road and is also the crossing bikers use to reach a nearby bike path. The crossing has no light, and is positioned at the top of a hill, decreasing visibility. The speed limit on Highway 2 lowers right next to the crosswalk, so cars are still at full speed when they reach it.
Members of Glacier View 4-H noticed that the crosswalk was dangerous for community members, and that many avoided using it when crossing the road.
“They usually just cross where it’s flat and you can see either side very well, in the middle of Coram,” Mirrer Bain, the president of Glacier View 4-H, said. “The crosswalk is on a corner up a hill, and you can’t really see the sign that great.”
In December of 2018, the group applied to Montana Math Models, a math-based summer program for 4-H members at Montana State University, and chose finding a solution for the crosswalk’s dangers as their project. To prepare for the program, which they will attend later this summer, the members began to gather information about the crosswalk and its impact on the community.
To estimate how many vehicles drive through the crosswalk, the group conducted its own small study: Members watched cars pass from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on June 14, and saw approximately 600 cars drive east toward the park. Even at the time of the study, before peak season dramatically increases traffic in the area, the numbers were significant.
The 4-H club is also collecting responses to a survey about how people use the crosswalk. They distributed the survey through their local post office and by handing out copies at the crosswalk. The survey can also be filled out online at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdaObGYSvCvmtFaQB4bgSScYz2RAH7T4UnNDnx9yAX9QoVa6w/viewform.
Alongside their efforts to gather information, the 4-H club began to raise money to change the light after they determine the right solution. They created GoFundMe page, which has raised $625 to date toward their $6,000 goal.
Until they can fundraise enough to move or improve the crosswalk, the group has put in a pedestrian flag system at the crossing. With a $300 grant from Montana 4-H, the members installed buckets of brightly colored flags on either side of the crosswalk. Pedestrians can hold the fluorescent flags aloft as they cross, making them more visible to oncoming traffic.
Soon, the group hopes to replace these measures with a more permanent solution.
“We’re going to be using math to solve this problem,” Bain said. Glacier View 4-H’s ultimate goal, she said, is “to put a flashing-light crosswalk in a better spot.”
To donate to Glacier View 4-H’s project, visit their GoFundMe page at http://gofundme.com/coram-Montana-crosswalk, mail check to P.O. Box 130378, Coram, MT 59913, or email the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.