Fourth try for 19th Ave. fines

The timing could hardly have been more appropriate for state Sen. Leland Yee to introduce his fourth annual attempt to pass a bill imposing a double-fine zone on the dangerous 19th Avenue-Park Presidio corridor. At approximately 1 a.m. Wednesday near Kirkham Street, a vehicle collided with another moving car, jumped the median and crashed into a parked car and a house. The first vehicle’s driver and passenger were transported to San Francisco General Hospital and listed as stable.

That latest accident was hardly an isolated event along 19th Avenue, which is officially part of state Highway 1. Though the wide thoroughfare traverses a densely populated urban area, it is the main connection from the Peninsula through western San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County. There were nine collisions and one fatality on 19th Avenue in 2006-07, with a total of 55 collisions and six deaths since 2002. Many injured or killed victims were pedestrians run down by speeders.

Over the last four years, Yee struck out on three defeated bills seeking double fines and other safety enforcements for the 19th Avenue corridor. His first attempt was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who refused any exceptions to statewide traffic policies. The second two versions died in legislative committee after fierce political horse-trading.

But this time, Yee said he is confident there is locked-in support from the transportation committee chairmen of both the Assembly and Senate, and the governor is promising to sign it. Yee’s breakthrough selling point appears to be that the measure now comes with a five-year limit. After expiration, the California Department of Transportation will analyze data to determine the plan’s effectiveness.

If all goes well, the bill should go into effect on Jan. 1, 2009. The double-fine zone would cover Highway 1 from Junipero Serra Boulevard in Daly City to Lake Street in The City’s Richmond district. It would double the amount of base fines for traffic violations. But since base fines make up only a portion of the total ticket amount along with additional state, county and court costs, the actual penalty increase would be closer to 25 percent.

For decades, the 19th Avenue-Park Presidio corridor has been universally recognized as one of The City’s most dangerous crossing routes for pedestrians. Next month, Caltrans begins the long-sought construction on a $4 million plan to install better traffic safety upgrades at 10 risky intersections along 19th Avenue. Like the double fines, these upgrades will be a welcome, if belated, improvement for a bad situation.

It has taken years of ongoing community pressure and determined efforts from the west side’s legislative representatives to get this far. The Examiner congratulates all participants, but the fight must continue until a fully effective safety package is in place.

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