Long-planned improvements at Marin and Santa Fe avenues could come to fruition this summer.
The $900,000 "Safe Routes to School" project will result in a safer intersection for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, according to Monday night's City Council staff report.
Council members are scheduled to vote Monday on whether to approve a call for bids for the project, and whether to increase its original budget by nearly $264,000.
(Staff recommend that council members approve the plans and the budget increase. The staff report is attached to the right as a PDF.)
AN ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN?
The project, as it has developed since summer 2010, has come before the Traffic & Safety Commission numerous times for review. In December, a crossing guard said the improvements won't come a day too soon.
"We take our lives in our hands, as do the pedestrians, on a daily basis," she told the commission. "It's very, very dangerous. There are a lot of kids who come to school by themselves.... They (drivers) do come at you."
School board member , who lives just north of the project area, told the commission that the improvements were quite a long time coming.
"It's important to get it done this summer," he said. "I'm disappointed it couldn't happen last summer. It's a dangerous intersection. It's only because of the crossing guards there hasn't been an accident involving children."
He cited a speed survey on his block that found more than 4,000 cars travel through the 900 block of Santa Fe daily.
According to an analysis by Patch staffers, there have been , injuring nine people, on Marin at Santa Fe from 2001-2010. Most involved other vehicles, but one involved a cyclist and another included a pedestrian. (The analysis did not take into account accidents on Santa Fe Avenue.)
In May 2000, the city identified Marin and Santa Fe as a "high priority traffic safety improvement" zone in its Traffic Management Plan.
"The project takes on added importance because the majority of pedestrians at this intersection are elementary school students," according to the March 19 staff report.
In 2009, the city received a $576,000 grant to update traffic signal equipment, change the curbs and shorten crosswalks, install several traffic calming features and perform extensive public outreach. The application required a local match of $64,000.
The staff report cites two main challenges to designing an improved intersection: "(1) Santa Fe Avenue north of Marin does not align with Santa Fe Avenue south of Marin; and (2) the south leg of Santa Fe Avenue intersects Marin Avenue at an oblique angle, creating awkward pedestrian crosswalks across Marin Avenue. The high volume of pedestrian and automobile activity around the school accentuates the challenges of the alignment."
SOME OF THE DETAILS
To address these challenges, the new intersection would include "bulb-outs" on the corners to shorten crosswalks, and a new traffic light system.
The proposed plans have been approved by the city engineer and are under review by the Division of the State Architect to ensure accessible access to Marin School.
As it stands, the curbs on the north side of the intersection would be shifted to the west to bring them into better alignment with the south side.
The plans at one point included an additional speed hump in the 900 block of Santa Fe (north of Marin) "to prevent motorists speeding downhill (north) when turning right onto Marin Avenue." Albany's transportation planner said Monday afternoon that the hump proposal later was dropped when it was determined it could cause too much of a traffic back-up.
Two speed humps remain in the plans in the 1000 block of Santa Fe (south of Marin).
The home at the northwest corner of the intersection, notes the staff report, would lose its planter strip, between the sidewalk and the street; the east side of its front yard also would be reduced by several feet, but the south side would essentially grow to make up the difference.
"The home on the northeast corner, and the property, would have larger bulb outs and realignment of the sidewalks in front of their properties," according to the staff report.
Staff noted concerns by several people about how to handle turning from southbound Santa Fe onto westbound Marin.
The project is exempt from an environmental impact review because its purpose is to improve public safety, according to city staff.
A rain garden is planned for the southwest corner of the intersection in accordance with the Clean Water Act.
To construct improvements during the summer, said staff, the project must be advertised for bids in March, and a contract awarded by May.
City Council will discuss the intersection during its March 19 meeting. To reach council members about this matter, email email@example.com.
What do you think about the city's plans for the intersection? Do you think it will be safer? Let us know in the comments.
If there's something in this article you think , or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORRECTION: A speed hump was planned for the 900 block of Santa Fe Avenue, just north of Marin Avenue, as part of the Safe Routes to School construction at Marin and Santa Fe. The hump proposal was dropped when it was determined it could cause too much of a traffic back-up. The staff report for the agenda item included incorrect information. Two speed humps remain in the plan in the 1000 block of Santa Fe.