Transportation

Sacramento erased crosswalk two months before woman, child were struck by hit-and-run driver

‘We’ve seen many accidents here. This should not happen.’

Witness Bernard Perez talks about a hit-and-run on Freeport Boulevard that injured a woman and a child. He says traffic problems are common.
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Witness Bernard Perez talks about a hit-and-run on Freeport Boulevard that injured a woman and a child. He says traffic problems are common.

Pedestrian advocates and residents are asking why Sacramento recently removed crosswalk markings from the intersection where an older woman and young boy were critically injured Wednesday.

An unidentified 71-year-old woman and 6-year-old boy were struck in the intersection of Freeport Boulevard and Oregon Drive just before 3:30 p.m. Wednesday by a hit-and-run driver.

The driver left the scene, but hours later, a 22-year-old man turned himself in to Sacramento police and has been booked for felony hit-and-run.

The incident occurred on a busy south Sacramento thoroughfare with two lanes of vehicle traffic flowing in each direction, plus left-turn lanes from Freeport onto Oregon.

City employees two months ago removed two long-standing crosswalks from the intersection with little mention of the change. Some Hollywood Park residents on social media questioned whether the removal was appropriate and if the city considered alternatives, such as a beacon that flashes red for cars when a pedestrian pushes a button to cross.

Kirin Kumar, executive director of the WALKSacramento pedestrian advocacy group, said he wants to know why the city isn’t considering other less expensive safety enhancements at Oregon Drive, such as safety signage, a pedestrian safety island or sidewalk bulb-outs at the corners to reduce the distance pedestrians have to walk through traffic.

Sacramento officials on Thursday defended the change, saying city standards indicate a crosswalk is dangerous at high-volume streets if no other safety enhancements are present, such as a traffic light.

City spokeswoman Marycon Young said in a statement to The Bee that the crosswalk alone “may give pedestrians a false sense of security when in fact the pedestrian and the motorist need to be vigilant and be sure that both see each other. The distance available for a vehicle to stop and the driver’s ability to see a crosswalk are other considerations.”

The city made the decision after a citizen complained that it is difficult and dangerous to cross there.

“We found the marked crosswalk did not meet our standards,” city traffic official Ryan Moore said. “Our standards dictated removing the crosswalk or building enhancements.”

The city did not have the money to add a traffic light, Moore said. Traffic signals cost $500,000 or more.

Pedestrians have the legal right to cross at any intersection, whether or not crosswalks are painted on the ground. Cars must stop for crossing pedestrians under state law.

Moore declined to say whether the city was trying to discourage people from crossing at Oregon Drive. The two nearest signalized intersections are to the north and south at a distance beyond two football fields.

Moore said the intersection has not had any pedestrian injuries in the last five years, but there have been four car crashes, two involving drunken driving.

“I have a lot of questions for the city on how it makes its decision on how to eliminate the crosswalk,” Kumar said. “I agree that simply a crosswalk across five lanes of 35 mph traffic is not safe. My question is around process.”

Jim Brown, head of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, said Freeport is troublesome at points for both pedestrians and cyclists.

“Freeport is a busy street with long blocks which encourages higher speeds,” Brown said. “At Oregon, you kind of have to make a run for it.”

The city has been working on a safety program called Vision Zero to identify its most dangerous streets and to begin searching for funds to make many of those streets safer. The Freeport Boulevard corridor, which runs north-south from downtown through southern neighborhoods, has been listed on the city’s Vision Zero website as one street on its “high injury network.”

Last year, the city reduced traffic lanes on Freeport north of Wednesday’s crash site, adding bike lanes as well as a beacon that flashes lights when a pedestrian wants to cross.

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak

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