Parents, teachers push for safety improvements on stretch of Fruitridge Road

A new traffic signal began operating at the corner of Fruitridge Road and 58th Street last month – two years after a West Campus High School student was struck and killed as she crossed the busy roadway.

Now a group of parents, educators and community members is pushing for greater safety measures – possibly including a traffic light – on a stretch of Fruitridge about three and a half miles west of where Michelle Murigi died. This stretch of Fruitridge/Seamas Avenue between Gilgunn Way and Karbet Way is home to Sutterville Preschool, Cabrillo Elementary School, two parks, a community center and Belle Cooledge Library. Sam Brannan Middle School sits a quarter mile off the thoroughfare.

The speed limit on this stretch of road changes three times in just under a mile – from a 25-mph school zone to a 35-mph zone and then to a 40-mph zone. Narrow sidewalks and a lack of designated bike lanes are also on the list of concerns.

“A lot of kids are walking down Fruitridge, so it’s a huge danger,” said Terrence Gladney, whose daughter attends Cabrillo Elementary. “I would hate for anyone to lose a child because of negligence.”

Members of the group pushing for safety improvements met Thursday at Sutterville Preschool, where they sat on foot-high plastic chairs.

They were met by representatives of City Council members and the city’s Division of Transportation. Ideas discussed included lowering the speed limits, posting school-zone signs, installing a stoplight and increasing enforcement of traffic laws in an effort to slow vehicles.

“I’m here speaking for all those little faces you see on the walls,” said Sutterville Preschool director Kim Tozer, pointing to self-portraits made by the students. “Daily, we hear screeching of tires.”

John Perez, a senior engineering technician with the city, said data collection on Fruitridge Road traffic patterns and a recommendation to the city could be completed within four weeks.

There has been one collision at Fruitridge Road and Gilgunn Way, where Sutterville Preschool sits, in the past five years, according to police reports. An average of 18,000 vehicles travel on that stretch of Fruitridge Road every day.

The intersection of Fruitridge Road and South Land Park Drive has seen 10 collisions in the past five years, according to police reports. This intersection, however, already has a stoplight.

No pedestrians have been hit by cars there in the past five years, according to police reports.

Perez downplayed the possibility of getting the city to install a stoplight, which can cost $400,000. In the case of Fruitridge Road and 58th Street, the city split the cost of the light with the Sacramento City Unified School District.

Perez said the city would conduct a signal warrant analysis, and if the street met the criteria for creating a stoplight, it would be placed on a list with about 25 other lights to be constructed, ranked in order of importance.

The intersection of Fruitridge and Gilgunn, he said, “wouldn’t even come close” to the top of the list for the city, which installs about one traffic light a year, he said.

“The best bang for our buck is to post this as a school zone,” he said.

A school zone could not only be installed more quickly than a stoplight, Perez said, it would be much cheaper. Such a zone would include a sign directing drivers to slow to 25 mph.

There would be no exact time when the reduced speed limit would be in effect, he said, and no flashing lights to indicate when children are present.

Some of those in attendance Thursday called for lowering the speed limit, but Perez said certain laws may prohibit that.

Speed limits are created by finding the 85th percentile of traffic speed along a roadway, Perez said, and state law dictates the speed limit may not go more than 5 mph higher or lower than that percentile, Perez said.

On Fruitridge, that number was 47 mph, but the Division of Transportation got permission to make the speed limit 40 mph after citing the number of schools and pedestrians, Perez said.

Joseph Devlin, a representative from the office of City Councilman Jay Schenirer, who represents the neighborhood, suggested it “may take some time” to find a way to calm traffic on Fruitridge.

Though many community members asked for increased enforcement of traffic laws on the strip of Fruitridge Road, Devlin said that’s unlikely to happen because the city no longer has a police traffic unit.

“Those resources have gone to, by and large, patrol,” Devlin said.

Those pushing for change said the city needs to move quickly to address what they see as a dangerous situation.

“We’ve seen near misses, near misses and near misses, and it’s not just from cars, it’s from 18-wheelers,” said Tim Taormina, whose granddaughter attends Sutterville Preschool. “What’s going to happen is some little kid is going to get run over by an 18-wheeler, then it will be an issue.”