S.F. drives plan for bloody passage

While traffic along the 19th Avenue-Park Presidio corridor continues to claim pedestrian lives, a multimillion-dollar safety plan is gaining speed for the thoroughfare dubbed a deathtrap for walkers.

Nearly two months after 86-year-old Alice Wallace was killed while crossing 19th Avenue at Noriega Street, San Francisco’s transportation experts are beginning to put pressure on state officials who control the corridor. Experts want the street — also a state highway connecting Marin and San Mateo counties — to look and function less like a high-speed freeway and more like an urban arterial.

“I’ve nearly been killed there several times,” said Esther Scheele, a friend of Wallace, at a meeting held by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority at the Sunset Recreation Center on Tuesday night. More than 100 people attended.

Although police have long referred to the corridor as a danger zone for pedestrians, transportation officials have continually been shot down in attempts to make the corridor safer. State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, introduced two bills that would have created a double-fine zone for speeders and red-light runners along Highway 1, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected both attempts.

The county transportation authority wants specially marked crosswalks, bus bulbs, better lighting and well-defined parking lanes to move vehicles off the sidewalks along the corridor.

“The basic idea is to make 19th Avenue more friendly to the people who live there rather than the people commuting back and forth,” said Manish Champsee, of WalkSF.

Since the corridor is also a state highway, The City cannot make changes because it falls under Caltrans’ jurisdiction as part of the state highway system. Caltrans, however, has allocated $11.6 million to install pedestrian signals at 26 intersections along the corridor. Construction could start as early as February.

The corridor remains one of the busiest and most dangerous in San Francisco, carrying 85,000 vehicles, 80,000 pedestrians and 14,500 Muni riders each day. Between 2000 and 2005, more than 1,200 people have been injured and 12 people have died along the corridor, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

Of the seven pedestrian deaths, only one occurred at a crosswalk with a pedestrian signal — Holloway Avenue. Only seven of the 34 crosswalks along the crosstown thoroughfare have pedestrian signals. Other intersections have traffic lights, but no “walk-don’t walk” signals.

arocha@examiner.com


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