Measure Passed to Enhance Safety





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The Berkeley City Council passed two measures Tuesday designed to increase pedestrian safety.

The measures placed the installation of two new stoplights and special pedestrian lights as priorities when the council budgets money later in the year.

The new stoplights will be in two places: the intersection of Claremont and Ashby avenues and the intersection of University and Shattuck avenues, according to a member of the city's transportation commission.

"These two intersections were chosen because of the number of accidents in recent years at the Claremont and University intersections," said Suzanne Adams. "Those two intersections have historically high records of accidents, but the Council has been unwilling to budget more than one light a year."

Councilmember Polly Armstrong, who proposed the installation of the new traffic lights, said the commission also designated nine or 10 other Berkeley intersections as dangerous for pedestrians.

"The city traffic engineers make a list of the most dangerous traffic intersections, and the transportation commission decides what intersections will get lights," Armstrong said. "The commission decided that the Claremont intersection should be a top priority."

The new stoplights, which cost approximately $120,000 each, are a small step toward making Berkeley's streets safer for pedestrians, Armstrong said.

"We are moving toward our mid-year budget discussion, and I am a big believer in spending city money on safety items," Armstrong said. "I proposed these measures in an effort to remind the council to stop wringing their hands over the lack of stoplights and put their money where their mouths are."

The Claremont and Ashby avenues intersection has not been identified as the most dangerous intersection in Berkeley, but Armstrong said it is the most dangerous intersection in her district. The new stoplight will be partially funded by a $100,000 contribution from CalTrans.

Ashby Avenue, as part of Route 13, is under the jurisdiction of CalTrans. Armstrong said CalTrans is unwilling to give the city control of the street.

"We have been working for decades to gain control of Ashby Avenue and we still don't have control," Armstrong said. "It is not something that happens overnight."

Armstrong said CalTrans is unwilling to help pay for pedestrian safety improvements because it views her solutions as experimental, particularly the installation of Santa Rosa pedestrian lights, which flash as a pedestrian enters an intersection.

"The council asked CalTrans to help pay for the improvements and they said no thanks," Armstrong said. "Claremont and Ashby is clearly a dangerous intersection where parents and children cross to go to Emerson School."

Santa Rosa lights remind drivers that pedestrians are in the intersection, Armstrong said.

"The lights at Claremont and Brookside should be finished in a couple of weeks," Armstrong said. "My hope is that they will be successful and people will want the lights put in all over town. Plus, they are cheaper than stoplights. For every six Santa Rosa lights, one stoplight is constructed."

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