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New bill would raise safety standards for California highways in urban areas

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Van Ness Avenue, which is currently under construction for a rapid transit program. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/ Special to S.F. Examiner)
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A new bill introduced Wednesday would require safety improvements to state-owned highways that run through neighborhoods and urban areas. The new bill would allocate funding to Caltrans to install safer sidewalks, crosswalks and bike infrastructure, making the streets safer for people who interact with them on a daily basis.

In San Francisco, this would include Van Ness Avenue and Lombard Avenue, which make up Highway 101, 19th Avenue, which is part of Highway 1, and Sloat Boulevard, which incorporates Highway 35.

The bill was introduced by a coalition of transportation and health care advocates, including California Bicycle Coalition, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, California Walks, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, and Senator Scott Wiener.

“State-owned highways that run through local communities should be designed for safe use by everyone, not just cars,” said Senator Wiener. “For too long, Caltrans has talked about complete streets as a policy, but hasn’t actually delivered these improvements in its projects. SB 760 will ensure that as we rehabilitate roads that run through the centers of our towns and cities, we are prioritizing active transportation uses like walking, bicycling, and riding public transportation. Streets designed for all residents create safer and healthier communities.

Caltrans currently maintains more than 50,000 miles of state roads and invests $2.4 billion annually in maintaining them. SB 760 would alter the guidelines dictating how State Highway funds are spent to ensure that changes improving accessibility, reducing vehicle miles traveled, and promoting public health are considered.

“Caltrans has a long history of working to make California a better place to drive,” Jeanie Ward-Waller, Policy Director for the California Bicycle Coalition. “We’ve been pushing the agency to make our state roads better for people biking and walking for years, and while we’ve seen progress in planning and goal-setting, that progress hasn’t been realized yet in better projects on the ground. SB 760 will push Caltrans to follow through in project implementation and to be a leader in designing safe streets.”

A similar effort was made by Caltrans in 2008 when the agency stated that they would ‘consider’ safer road design for people walking and bicycling in all projects, but little movement has been taken to turn the considerations into actions.

 

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