Burlingame aims to enhance safety for area pedestrians

The city is raising the bar for pedestrian safety around town, particularly around its major shopping districts.

Pedestrian-involved accidents and several “close calls” have been an ongoing problem in the general downtown area, particularly around Burlingame Avenue and Broadway, Police Chief Jack Van Etten said.

The intersection of El Camino Real and Broadway, where crossing guards are standard fare, remains one of the top areas for red-light violations, Van Etten said.

At the behest of residents and business owners, the city is examining ways to make Broadway a safer place to stroll.

Late last week, crews installed portable “delineators” at Broadway and Paloma Avenue to slow speedy drivers — a temporary measure while officials mull over the best traffic-slowing options for the busy street, assistant Public Works Director Syed Murtuza said.

The delineators, brightly colored poles that will pop back up if a car knocks them over, came at a total cost of $1,000.

“They’ll be there until we can figure out what options are feasible and what would have the least impact on our budget,” Murtuza said.

There was talk of adding a stop sign at the intersection, but city traffic engineer Augustine Chou had concerns that cars would back up on the street and eventually spill over into neighborhood streets.

Other options on the table include a lighted crosswalk or a traffic signal specifically to allow pedestrians to cross Broadway, Murtuza said.

A lighted crosswalk would cost between $50,000 and $70,000, while a traffic signal could cost $250,000.

But Councilman Russ Cohen said that increasing safety doesn’t necessarily mean installing costly equipment.

“Pedestrian safety is more about getting drivers to realize that there’s a crosswalk than about installing more stop signs and traffic lights,” Cohen said.

Officials hope the lion’s share of the money for any improvements will come from state or federal transportation grants.

The city already secured $150,000 in Transportation Development Act grant money earlier this year for bike signs on California Street and throughout the city, intersection countdowns and a nearly completed, lighted crosswalk at Morrell Avenue, east of the railroad tracks, Murtuza said.

Van Etten said he also wants to step up his department’s enforcement abilities with some state grant funds.

In January, he plans on applying for a grant from the state Office of Traffic and Safety that would fund a motorcycle and 18 months’ pay for a motorcycle officer.

If Van Etten is successful, the officer would “selectively enforce” downtown hotspots for traffic violations.

“Hopefully the economy will get better and we can absorb that person into the police department,” Van Etten said. “We can certainly use the extra personnel.”

tramroop@examiner.com

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