A safety boost at 19th and Sloat

A car accident that turned deadly for an innocent pedestrian a month ago brought about improvements at 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard that should save future lives.

A new traffic signal, to be installed today at the intersection, will allow drivers eastbound on Sloat to make a left onto 19th without the threat of a collision from incoming cars on westbound Sloat. According to Municipal Transportation Agency spokeswoman Maggie Lynch, the agency’s engineers have been seeking approval for the installation for seven years.

The new traffic light is just one improvement expected along the corridor as public and transportation officials have been hammering out solutions to maintain a smooth commute while improving pedestrian safety along the road.

With its 7.5-mile length, 85,000 daily vehicles, and 80,000 daily pedestrians, 19th Avenue is one of the busiest — and most dangerous — corridors in The City, connecting Interstate 280 and highway 1 to the Golden Gate Bridge. At least three deaths have occurred along the state highway, which is under the jurisdiction of Caltrans and not the city of San Francisco.

There were seven injury collisions in 2006 and six in 2005 at 19th and Sloat. Citywide, more than 20 pedestrians have died this year after being struck by moving vehicles, making 2007 among the deadliest years for pedestrians in The Cityin the last decade.

Caltrans has allocated $11.6 million for pedestrian countdown signals at 26 intersections, and state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, has received assurances from transit and state officials that his bill making the corridor a “double-fine zone” for traffic infractions would pass next year.

Manish Champsee, president of Walk San Francisco, a pedestrian advocacy group, applauded the new traffic signal and how quickly officials moved to install the traffic light. Despite that, pedestrian safety is still a major problem in The City, he said.

On Oct. 2, 21-year-old Sandy Kim was standing at the corner of the major intersection when a car westbound on Sloat came through the intersection and crashed with a car turning left off Sloat and onto 19th, said San Francisco police.

The westbound car ultimately jumped the curb, pinning Kim against a traffic pole.

Four other people were injured during the accident, but only Kim died from her injuries.

dsmith@examiner.com

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