Parents urge crosswalk safety near Berkeley school

March 4, 2011 6:27:07 PM PST
Two years ago a five-year-old Berkeley girl was struck by a car as she walked to her local school. The city of Berkeley promised to improve the visibility of the crosswalk where she was hit, but so far very little has been done to improve safety.

On March 9, parents and neighbors will rally at the school to make people aware of the problem and push for something to be done. In 2003, a 58-year-old man was killed when he tried to cross the intersection in his wheelchair.

"It's just scary out here. The traffic is going from the hills to the freeway. They are not local people. Their desire is to get from here to there and they go," parent Jenne King said.

Some of the safety issues King pointed out includes how the crossing painted on the street has faded, there is no pedestrian crossing signal or any other safety device and because the school is not visible from the road, drivers often go over the 25-mile-an-hour speed limit. When the little girl was injured, city official promised changes.

"They trimmed a tree and a couple of signs went up a month ago," King said.

Students are told to use this other crosswalk. With a stoplight, a crossing guard and a pedestrian crossing signal with a countdown timer. But that one is located a block away from the school's main entrance.

So parents are fighting for some kind of pedestrian beacon and Berkeley's Transportation Division admits there is money to install these devices thanks to the "safe routes to school" program. But the issue is finding the time to do it.

"We have a number of grant projects that we are working on and our engineering division is quite busy," Transportation Division Manager Farid Javandel said.

Projects like the one on Adeline Street across from the BART station have been completed. But Ashby Avenue is also Highway 113 which means it's maintained by Caltrans.

"Because this is a state highway, this is under the jurisdiction of Caltrans and they need to seek special permits in order to get the work done here," said.

But the recent community pressure has been enough to convince the city to finally expedite its request to Caltrans.

"Just this week we submitted the encroachment permit to have the beacons installed," Javandel said.

The only thing Caltrans needs to do now is approve it, inspect the installment and construction of the plan. The city of Berkeley says hopefully it will by completed by next September and it will cost $54,000.

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