New 19th Avenue turf war

The seven miles of 19th Avenue and Park Presidio connecting the Peninsula and western San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge are among The City’s most dangerous thoroughfares — especially for pedestrians trying to cross the six lanes of fast-moving traffic. There were 786 collisions on 19th Avenue between 2000 and 2005, with 1,205 injuries and 12 deaths, and seven of the fatalities were pedestrians.

Attempts to make the corridor safer have encountered seemingly endless frustrations. Although 19th Avenue’s only traffic law enforcement comes from the San Francisco police, the avenue is officially state Highway 1 and controlled by the California Department of Transportation, which must constantly balance conflicting statewide demands.

Only last week The Examiner sounded a warning that pending legislation to impose a double-fine zone on state Highway Route 12 in the North Bay — where five people died in March alone — would also permanently bar 19th Avenue from ever getting its own double-fine zone. So if it is not amended, it must unfortunately be opposed.

Now already another tug of war over making 19th Avenue less of a deathtrap appears imminent. This week the San Francisco County Transportation Authority scheduled two west side meetings to introduce its latest multipronged safety plan. (A Thursday session will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Richmond Police Station, 461 Sixth Ave.)

The City program includes making the crosswalks much more visible, installing pedestrian countdown displays and adjusting traffic signal timing. San Francisco transit officials also hope that adding more lighting and greenery will encourage motorists to realize they driving are on a city street, not an open highway.

Naturally all this comes at a price — up to $500,000 per intersection, for a total of 26 eligible major intersections. The City would prioritize which intersections are funded first, and which improvements are most needed. As it happens, Caltrans has already agreed to launch a multiyear project to modernize the 19th Avenue traffic lights. The work would cost some $20 million and is to be partially financed by San Francisco.

The problem with these hopeful programs is their overdependence on the often-fickle edicts of state government. Whatever San Francisco transit decides to do could be overridden by Caltrans, which has previously resisted measures it deems would excessively slow 19th Avenue’s traffic flow. Similarly, Gov. Schwarzenegger already vetoed two of state Sen. Leland Yee’s bills to make 19th Avenue a double-fine zone, saying he disapproves of local exemptions to state policies.

SFCTA officials freely admit they are pushing hard to focus local public attention on 19th Avenue safety improvements and keep the work from slipping to the state’s back burner. Caltrans budgets are subject to unpredictable reductions, so we have no intention of lightening the pressure.

General OpinionOpinion

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A health care worker receives one of the first COVID-19 vaccine doses at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Tuesday Dec. 15, 2020. (Courtesy SFgov)
SF to open three large sites for COVID-19 vaccinations

Breed: ‘We need more doses. We are asking for more doses’

Tongo Eisen-Martin, a Bernal Heights resident, named San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Tongo Eisen-Martin becomes San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate

Bernal Heights resident Tongo Eisen-Martin has become San Francisco’s eighth poet laureate.… Continue reading

Homeless people's tents can be seen on Golden Gate Avenue in the Tenderloin on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 16, 2020. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/S.F. Examiner)
Statewide business tax could bring new funds to combat homelessness

San Francisco could get more than $100 million a year for housing, rental assistance, shelter beds

The Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco (a mural by artist Jamie Treacy is pictued) has a lineup of free online programming including activities for youngsters scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18. (Courtesy Demetri Broxton/Museum of the African Diaspora)
Stanford, Museum of the African Diaspora host MLK Day activities

Online offerings include films, music, discussion

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi presides the US House of Representatives vote on the impeachment of US President Donald Trump at the US Capitol, January 13, 2021, in Washington, DC. - The Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives on January 13 opened debate on a historic second impeachment of President Donald Trump over his supporters' attack of the Capitol that left five dead. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
House votes 232-197 to impeach Trump a second time

Focus shifts to Senate, where McConnell has signaled he may not stand by president

Most Read