Two Missoula elementary schools have safer road crossings for students with the addition of flashing yellow lights this week.

The double flashing beacons – sometimes called “bouncing ball” signals – will warn drivers to slow down during school hours. The lights are placed on South Higgins Avenue near Paxson Elementary School and on Rattlesnake Drive near Rattlesnake Elementary.

The initiative to install the new lights came from the City Council’s Public Works Committee, which asked city engineers to look at speed zones in Missoula. The most pressing concerns were at Rattlesnake and Paxson.

“We’ve been working on addressing safety issues regarding the streets for the last five years or so,” said Kim Chumrau, principal at Paxson.

It’s especially essential to slow down traffic from about 8 to 8:30 a.m., when there are more pedestrians, families with strollers and runners in the area, she said.

“The lights will also assist in keeping the area safe for the second-busiest part of the day, which is from 3 to 3:30 p.m.,” she added.

Higgins Avenue and Rattlesnake Drive both have a regular speed limit of 30 mph near the schools. When the lights flash, the speed limit will drop to 20 mph near Paxson and 25 mph near Rattlesnake.

“The beacons demarking the school zones and their new speed limits make sense for safety,” said city engineer Kevin Slovarp.

Slovarp worked with the Montana Department of Transportation to purchase the flashing beacons and signs through its safety program.

“Kids are present, so let’s slow down and be courteous and conscientious about the safety of our young people,” he said.

Dylan Chaffin is a journalism major at the University of Montana and a reporting intern for the Missoulian.

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