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OakDOT Responds to Tragic Traffic Death at Garfield Elementary School with Immediate Safety Improvements

Date Posted: November 6th, 2019 @ 12:41 PM
Last Updated: November 6th, 2019 @ 2:01 PM
Map of safety improvements at Garfield Elementary

News from: Oakland Dept. of Transportation


November 6, 2019

OakDOT Responds to Tragic Traffic Death at Garfield Elementary School with Immediate Safety Improvements

Latest rapid response work includes innovative “hardened centerlines” which prevent drivers from cutting corners when turning

Oakland, CA – The City of Oakland Department of Transportation (OakDOT) announced today the completion of several rapid-response traffic safety improvements at the site of a recent pedestrian traffic death, the latest effort by the department to deliver swift changes when tragedy strikes, while still proactively working to build safe streets in every Oakland neighborhood.

On October 1, 2019, a vehicle crash tragically left a woman dead and a child badly injured as they were walking across the street at Foothill Boulevard and 22nd Avenue, just outside Garfield Elementary School. A driver making a left turn at a signalized intersection failed to yield to the people in the crosswalk, a crash pattern that accounts for four times the rate of severe and fatal crashes as compared to right turns. In response, OakDOT tested a new left turn traffic calming tool: hardened centerlines that keep drivers from making quick turns.

"There’s been a history of concern about traffic safety along the Foothill corridor," said Nikki Fortunato Bas, Councilmember for District 2. "I thank OakDOT for its immediate safety improvements and will continue to work with our City staff and community to help ensure a tragedy like the loss of our neighbor, beloved mother and wife, Ms. Truong, never happens again."

“Our department was formed to provide the safest possible streets for every person in Oakland, especially those who are most reliant on walking and public transit to get around,” OakDOT Director Ryan Russo said. “This typically includes our low-income communities, communities of color, seniors, people with disabilities, and children. Innovative responses like these are how we will deliver on this important responsibility, as we challenge ourselves to do better for Oaklanders and transform streets in a matter of weeks, rather than years.”

In coordination with elected leadership, OakDOT staff also met with families, students, and school staff at Garfield Elementary to work quickly together toward improvements, The school community has brought invaluable expertise and lived experience to assist OakDOT in designing safety measures that will make the greatest impact in reducing crashes as swiftly as possible. OakDOT will continue collaborating with elected leadership, school leaders and community members toward solutions.

Rapid Response Safety Improvements

The map on this page outlines the improvements in three categories:

COMPLETED work that is either done now or expected to be done within a matter of days

NEXT work that is expected to be complete by the end of 2019

FOLLOWING work with long-term fixes that will take longer to complete, but will be evaluated and confirmed by the end of 2019

COMPLETED work is highlighted on the map in orange. Those improvements include:

  • Foothill Blvd & 22nd Ave: Installed hardened centerlines on all intersection approaches. This is an innovative new approach, road-tested in New York City and brought now to Oakland for the first time. These hardened centerlines force cars to slow down and not cut corners when making left turns. This is especially important because Oaklanders are killed or severely injured by left-turning vehicles at over 4 times the rate of right-turning vehicles.
  • Foothill Blvd & 22nd Ave: Installed “Left Turn Yield to Pedestrians” signs on all approaches.
  • 22nd Ave – Foothill Blvd to E 17thSt: Installed two speed humps and “Speed Hump 15 MPH” warning signs, to slow vehicle traffic.
  • Foothill Blvd & Munson Wy: Relocated “School” warning signs for increased visibility.
  • Foothill Blvd & Munson Wy: Installed “Yield Here to Pedestrians” signs in the gutters and surrounded by wheel stops.
  • Foothill Blvd & Munson Wy: Added red curb at the crosswalk to make pedestrians who are entering the crosswalk more visible to approaching vehicles.
  • Foothill Blvd & Munson Wy: Extended crosswalk markings from curb-to-curb.
  • Foothill Blvd & 21st Ave: Foothill Blvd & 21st Ave: Installed “School” warning signs.
  • Foothill Blvd & 21st Ave: Foothill Blvd & 21st Ave: Installed “Yield Here to Pedestrians” signs.
  • Foothill Blvd – 20th Ave to 24th Ave: Installed additional “School” warning signs.
  • Foothill Blvd – 20th Ave to 24th Ave: Installed additional “School Speed Limit” signs.
  • Foothill Blvd – 20th Ave to 24th Ave: Installed additional “Fines Double” signs.

NEXT work is highlighted on the map in green. Those improvements include:

  • Foothill Blvd & Munson Wy: Install a pedestrian safety island.

FOLLOWING work is highlighted on the map in blue. Those improvements include multiple upgrades to the traffic signal at Foothill Blvd & 22nd Ave:

  • Install leading pedestrian interval to give pedestrians a head start into the crosswalk, increasing driver yielding to pedestrians.
  • Install protected left-turn phasing to specifically direct the timing of left-turning vehicles.
  • Install mast arms on 22nd Ave approaches to improve signal visibility for drivers.

A larger format file of the map is available upon request.

The improvements tackle the top factors that lead to traffic deaths nationwide and in Oakland: speeding and failing to stop for people walking. Vehicles traveling at higher speeds are more likely to kill or severely injure people walking and bicycling in a crash—in collisions with vehicles travelling 20-mph, nine out of 10 pedestrians and cyclists survive, but at 40-mph, only one out of ten people survive. Drivers traveling at higher speeds are also less likely to yield to people walking, because it takes longer to slow down.

The Broader Context:

Traffic safety is OakDOT’s most important charge. Staff work every day, year-round, to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders, and drivers as they travel around Oakland. Our work is guided in part by long-term visions like those found in the 2017 Pedestrian Plan, “Oakland Walks!” and in the 2019 Bike Plan, “Let’s Bike Oakland,” as well as by ongoing partnerships and programs like the Alameda County Safe Routes to Schools program. OakDOT prioritizes all of our work on our high injury corridors, just six percent of streets where over 60% of severe and fatal crashes concentrate, and in our racially diverse neighborhoods to address racial disparities in traffic crashes.

Despite these efforts, tragedies still occur far too often. Oakland sees an average of two severe or fatal injuries from traffic crashes every week. To improve the City’s response when those tragedies happen, OakDOT has been developing a “Swift and Effective” rapid response protocol: when crashes take place that could have been prevented, OakDOT deploys those crash prevention tools immediately. Examples of past Swift and Effective projects include pedestrian safety improvements at Harrison & 23rd streets and at Foothill Blvd. and 26th Avenue.

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