Bike Advocacy Groups honing in on Powell Intersections Safety Improvements at Tonight’s BPAC Meeting
The Emeryville BPAC will hold a special meeting tonight in Council Chambers. On the agenda are a litany of items but first and foremost is the Powell Street intersections improvements. These intersections, known by most residents as probably the most dangerous in the city, are finally getting some much deserved attention after the tragic pedestrian death of Mahin Ashki back on November 1st.
The BPAC held their regular meeting on November 7th but this was not enough time to get this item on the agenda and a December meeting presented conflicts with having Caltrans representatives present. Sixty minutes have been assigned to this action item in tonight’s discussion and representatives of Caltrans and Emeryville Public Works are expected to be present.
Bike East Bay Advocacy
Bike East Bay Advocacy Manager Cynthia Armour initiated a petition a month prior to this tragedy to pressure Caltrans to act. The post noted that the I-80 offramp crosswalk was part of the Bay Trail and deserved special priority by them. The petition called for three specific short-term upgrades including adding green striping to the crosswalk, installing a ‘no right turns on red’ sign and installing a temporary median extension to prevent drivers from using the on/off-ramps as a shortcut.
The E’ville Eye subsequently stepped in to help circulate the petition gathering an additional 213 signatures from our readers. Bike East Bay representatives have since met with Emeryville city staff to step up the pressure on Caltrans to take action as well as adding to their list of recommendations including:
- Squaring corners off at Powell/NB 80 off ramp and the Southside of Powell/Christie Ave intersections
- Evaluating the possibility of additional advance lead time for pedestrians crossing Powell Street on Christie Ave
- Installing high-visibility in-street pedestrian crosswalk sign at the end of the median
- The addition of “no right turn on red” signs
- Secure funding to do a follow-up traffic safety analysis of this corridor to evaluate the effectiveness of improvements to date and compare with the 2005 UC Study
- Recommend next set of needed safety improvements
Freeway Jumping exposed by KRON 4
The issue with freeway jumping at the intersection has become so commonplace that it got the attention of KRON 4 People Behaving Badly segment reporter Stanley Roberts. Roberts documented commuters tendencies to use this on-ramp/off-ramp as a shortcut in the above video segment. Roberts notes the net time savings, since drivers generally have to endure metering lights when they re-enter, as a mere 30 seconds. One of Bike East Bay’s asks is to add a median extension in the center of Powell Street to prevent this tactic.
Caltrans slowly coming around
Caltrans has continually cited the lack of reported bike and pedestrian crashes at this location for their inaction thus far. Bike East Bay and The E’ville Eye know this to be bogus and have tried to maintain pressure on Caltrans and the city with a series of articles spotlighting the dangers of this intersection. The posts have garnered quite a bit of resident reaction as dozens have recounted harrowing experiences crossing the path.
“I live near this intersection & have to cross here often. But, I truly fear it. Drivers making a right turn FAIL to look right for pedestrians before turning.” -Dan U. via Nexdoor.
“I cross this intersection as a pedestrian almost daily and it’s crazy how many times I’ve almost been hit by drivers not paying attention.” -Morgan M. via Facebook.
“As a senior walker and cyclist, this is a TERRIFYING intersection!” – Gretchen K. via Facebook.
Most residents know to be hyper-vigilant while crossing these intersections as cars frequently make right turns without stopping and the many near-misses are clearly not calculated into the data. Ashki was in town visiting a relative and probably not aware of the dangerous reputation of the intersection. Many also noted frequent violations by vehicles and the needed enforcement by local authorities. Captain Dante Diotalevi of the EPD noted the possibility of the placement of a decoy patrol car in the vicinity to provide a deterrent but that no additional resources were currently available from their traffic division.
Shortly after The E’ville Eye posted our email petition, we were contacted by Caltrans District 4 Public Information Branch Chief Robert Haus. Haus noted that he met with a Caltrans traffic engineering team to review the location and are issuing the following short-term measures:
Proposed Striping work:
- Add 12” while advance bar in front of existing crosswalk at the approach.
- Reposition turning arrows at the approach.
- Place island striping to extend the existing island at intersection to discourage illegal through-traffic from EB-80 Powell Off-ramp
- Place lead lines for both left and right turning movement traffic.
Proposed Signing work:
- Relocate existing “EXIT Speed Warning” sign
- Install “Signal Warning” sign
- Replace existing “NO THRU TRAFFIC” sign with “No Through Traffic Symbol” sign
- Install “Turning Vehicles Yield to Ped/Bike” regulatory signs for crosswalk at the approach
- Install “Ped/bike” warning signs in advance and at the location of crosswalk at the approach
Signal modifications at intersection:
- Replace signal heads to remove green and yellow ball and install green and yellow arrows
Haus noted these short-term measures could be implemented in the next 3-6 months, depending on the current maintenance backlog. Haus also expressed a possible compromise with the ‘no right turn on red’ recommendation. “Caltrans supports measures to restrict right-turns at this location when the pedestrian signal is actuated” Haus noted through email. “Traffic Operations staff is currently evaluating this option to determine the extent of work needed for installation and effects on vehicle queuing.” Haus also noted the usefulness of green stripping in crosswalks to increase visibility, but this did not currently conform to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) guidelines.
Armour expressed optimism with the list but expressed skepticism with just adding stripping as a means of deterring Freeway jumping. “I’d be interested in seeing the island extension be not just paint but also bollards” she noted over email.
Long-term Plan Needed
While these safety improvements should have an impact, the city still needs to develop a longterm strategy to address the poor connectivity of this Bay Trail segment. Newly appointed Mayor Scott Donahue is a former BPAC committee member and has a reputation as a staunch bicycle supporter. He’s been shopping his idea of turning the Temescal creek canal bore into a bike/ped thruway that would provide a dedicated path without the addition of expensive infrastructure. The addition of a Bike/Ped bridge similar to the University Avenue pedestrian bridge would cost upwards of $10 million dollars and could take over a decade of planning and building.