Pedestrians get mixed signals on Highway 1 

One of San Francisco’s most dangerous crosstown streets has few pedestrian signals in its roughly seven-mile stretch through the dense neighborhoods of The City’s west side.

Only seven of the 31 crosswalks on 19th Avenue and Park Presidio — state Highway 1’s route through The City — between Holloway Avenue to the south and Lake Street to the north, have pedestrian signals. The rest of the intersections have traffic lights, but no "walk/don’t walk" signals.

(Examiner map/Google) The blue line between the red X's shows Highway 1's route across San Francisco, stretching from Lake Street (north) to Holloway Avenue (south). Only seven crosswalks on that entire route have pedestrian signals.

The state-controlled route that links Marin and San Mateo counties was the site of more than 1,200 traffic collisions between 2000 and 2005. Of those crashes, 786 resulted in injuries and 12 in deaths. Eighty of the crashes involved pedestrians, 81 of whom were injured and six of whom were killed, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

Of the 12pedestrian deaths, only one happened at a crosswalk with a pedestrian signal — Holloway Avenue. Lake Street, Geary Boulevard, Moraga Street, Sloat Boulevard and the train platform in front of Mercy High School also have pedestrian signals.

But The City cannot simply install signals because the street falls under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Transportation as part of the state highway system.

Caltrans reported Wednesday that funding for pedestrian signals has been identified, but that Caltrans has not been able to secure a contractor to install the lights.

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The agency opened the project for bidding in August 2005 for the installation of traffic signals at 10 intersections, but no bids came in within the state’s $6 million budget for the project. The agency tried again in August 2006, with the same result. Now, Caltrans plans to put out another call for bids in July.

A second phase of the project, covering 19 intersections at a cost of $12 million, will commence immediately after the initial phase, Caltrans spokesman Jeff Weiss said.

"It’s difficult to find a time to do the work and allow traffic to travel on 19th Avenue without traffic being slowed down significantly," Weiss said. "The bids come in way over budget because there is a lot of night work involved."

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, introduced two bills as a state assemblyman that would have created a double-fine zone for speeders and red-light runners along California Highway 1, but neither gained Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature.

Yee has also pushed for the pedestrian signals, which appear popular with his constituents in the neighborhood.

"This area is high-traffic," said Joseph Omojare, who works as a telemarketer near 19th Avenue and Taraval Street. "I see a lot of elderly people here. It would be nice if there was something to assist them."

Omojare suggested countdown signals and giving pedestrians more time as possible solutions.

"I feel like I have to be very careful. Nineteenth Avenue has become a raceway," said Denise Lynn, who lives near the intersection of 19th and Holloway avenues.

Panya Lee, who has operated A-Safe Way Driving School on 19th Avenue and Taraval Street for 27 years, advocated pedestrian signals, but also cautioned pedestrians.

"Pedestrians should not take it for granted that, when the light turns green, all the cars will stop in time," he said.

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