Marconi Avenue is not pedestrian friendly

Some streets are – by design – just plain dangerous for pedestrians.

Take Marconi Avenue in Arden Arcade, a five-lane thoroughfare that runs past residential areas and small commercial strips.

The speed limit is 40 mph, and most intersections have no crosswalk markings or traffic signals. It’s legal for pedestrians to cross at unmarked intersections. But on this street, it’s often a risky venture.

Last week, 54-year-old Stephen Vuletich was crossing Marconi at Calderwood Lane near Fulton Avenue, apparently to get his morning coffee at Burger King, when he was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver, who later turned herself in.

The crash report is not yet complete. It appears Vuletich was cutting diagonally across the street, near an unmarked intersection, but outside of it, which would constitute jaywalking, California Highway Patrol officials said.

The question: Should more Marconi intersections have painted crosswalk lines?

County officials say the answer is no. Lupe Rodriguez, a Sacramento County transportation engineer, said Marconi is by design an “arterial,” made for moving cars fast. Not a lot of pedestrians cross it at the unmarked intersections. If the county painted crosswalks at those intersections, it could invite what are called “good Samaritan” crashes.

That’s where one driver sees a pedestrian, slows down, and is hit from behind by another car whose driver wasn’t expecting the car ahead to stop. Or worse, one driver stops, but the driver in the next lane continues at high speed, hitting the pedestrian.

The county prefers pedestrians walk to the signalized intersections on Marconi and cross there, given that that is where most of the stores, restaurants and other commercial enterprises are. Rodriguez said transportation officials will, however, review the CHP report of last week’s fatality to see if more safety measures are warranted.

Chris Holm of WalkSacramento, a pedestrian advocacy group, said installation of traffic signals would provide more safety than merely painting crosswalk lines. But Marconi is just one of many large, fast streets that could use taming, and traffic lights are expensive.

That in mind, WalkSacramento recently launched a campaign called Vision Zero – starting in south Sacramento – to help cities and counties focus on troublesome streets for engineering upgrades so that they are safer for pedestrians to use. The campaign also will work on increased safety education and law enforcement. Holm said WalkSacramento wants to expand the effort later to include suburban county streets like Marconi.

Notably, Marconi Avenue will see a lot of street activity June 22-28 when the U.S. Senior Open golf championship comes to town at the Del Paso Country Club. Tournament officials are asking fans not to park in the neighborhood. In fact, parking is prohibited adjacent to the county club. Instead, officials are offering free parking at Cal Expo where fans can catch shuttle buses to the tournament site.