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Marin-Santa Fe Intersection Could See Major Facelift This Summer

The City Council is set to vote Monday night on whether to authorize a call for bids to find a contractor to undertake extensive changes to the intersection at Marin and Santa Fe avenues.

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.)

BACKGROUND

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.

THE SCHEDULE

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 cityhall@albanyca.org.

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.

Get an alert when we write about traffic safety by clicking the "Keep me posted" button below. Read more about traffic safety here.

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 albany@patch.com.

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.

Tim Q. Cannon March 19, 2012 at 03:36 PM
So, I'm guessing they'll continue with the "No right turn on red" signs....which I think should have "during school hours" on them.
Ken Jung March 19, 2012 at 03:53 PM
I believe this sentence needs to be corrected: The plans include an additional speed hump in the 800 block of Santa Fe, south of Marin, "to prevent motorists speeding downhill (north) when turning right onto Marin Avenue." What's confusing is that the 1000 block of Santa Fe is actually south of Marin, not the 800 block. Also, downhill is to the south, not the north.
JW March 19, 2012 at 03:54 PM
How about some big posted fines for ignoring speed rules at this intersection (or school zones in general)? A dedicated officer handing out tickets during passing times (2 hours per day) might convince some people to slow down.
Peggy McQuaid March 19, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I htink it is too difficult for the average motorist to determine "school hours" as they vary so much. Is there a possibility of a computerized sign reading right turn on red OK or no right turn depending on circumstances - vacations, holidays, etc.
Jesse Townley March 19, 2012 at 04:46 PM
I often travel through that intersection late-night when I am the only vehicle/person in sight. It would be great to be able to not sit at the light, idling & wasting gasoline at 12:30am!
Emilie Raguso March 19, 2012 at 07:46 PM
I have a note into the city about this, as the staff report indicates the 800 block. I mistakenly put "south of" due to perhaps some mild form of dyslexia (I can't wrap my mind around the fact that the lower numbers are north!). I will definitely find out the right block but I may not hear back until tonight's meeting. Thank you (and another reader) for pointing this out!
Amy Smolens March 19, 2012 at 10:05 PM
In San Francisco there are intersections in which left turns are prohibited during commute rush hours and those times are posted. Posting "No Right Turn on Red Monday-Friday 7a-8:30a/2p-4p" or whatever hours would work for "school hours" purposes seems reasonable.
Peter Goodman March 19, 2012 at 11:11 PM
They have such lights in Davis. I imagine they would add much $$ to the total budget.
Emilie Raguso March 19, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Confirmed! CORRECTION: A speed hump is 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 staff report has the wrong block listed. Thanks for your careful reading!
Emilie Raguso March 20, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Via the city, an update: "The staff report failed to complete the paragraph and explain that although the third speed hump was considered under Option 2, it was later eliminated because it would worsen the vehicle queue that usually forms between Solano and Marin."
SMM March 20, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Safety at this intersection is a priority, but there are two aspects aren't really addressed. First, the behavior of parents who double-park to drop off kids, which delays traffic in a dangerous way. And second, the increasing constriction for cars often results in impatient drivers. I plan to drive other streets, which only moves the problem to a new location.
Ken Jung March 21, 2012 at 12:40 AM
I looked through the project plans and noticed that the intersection will have video cameras, presumably to monitor red light runners and violators of the "no turn on red" signs. Also there will be solar-powered speed monitoring signs on the 1000 block of Santa Fe.
Jerome Rainey November 17, 2012 at 12:03 AM
I walked past Santa Fe and Marin last night, and noticed that the street lights and signals are installed, but not operational yet. It looked to my non-professional eyes like they had installed the crossing signs facing the wrong directions (away from the crosswalks they are meant to govern), but maybe they are adjustable in a way that I couldn't make out.
Ross Stapleton-Gray November 17, 2012 at 04:50 AM
I think the signs are indeed adjustable, and not yet where they'll be. But I needed to drive my daughter past the school to get her to AMS, around when Marin was starting, and traffic was an absolute zoo. Choking the intersection down to a single lane in each direction may be... problematic. Huge issues when cars want to turn right, but streams of kids are filling the intersection, or want to turn left, and oncoming traffic precludes turning, and every other car is backed up behind the blockage. We'll see.

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