Oakland, CA – Standing alongside the family of Deontae Bush, an Oaklander tragically killed in a 2018 traffic crash on 35th Avenue, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Councilmember Noel Gallo, and the City of Oakland Department of Transportation (OakDOT) announced the rollout of numerous traffic safety improvements along 35th Avenue Tuesday, marking both significant steps forward in innovating safety solutions for a challenging roadway and delivering millions of dollars in improvements on a long-standing community and City priority street for improved safety.
City and community leaders gathered Tuesday at 35th Avenue near the corner of Galindo Street, where Deontae Bush was struck and killed by a person driving a vehicle. Bush’s death had been just the latest in a tragic history of injuries and deaths along the corridor; data have helped identify a high-injury corridor network the City is now using to prioritize major safety investments – just 6% of streets that accounts for more than 60% of severe and fatal traffic crashes. OakDOT’s work to address these corridors is guided by information identifying the areas known to face the highest rates of injury crashes, where vulnerable communities such as youth and families in schools are located, and where Oakland’s most historically underserved communities live.
Tuesday’s announcement marked a major milestone: the completion of long-term safety improvements along more than a mile of 35th Avenue between E. 18th Street and Mangels Avenue:
- · 7 speed cushions to slow traffic while still accommodating emergency and transit vehicles that rely on this corridor
- · 3 Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons to allow people walking to safely cross the street by slowing and stopping traffic
- · 7 Flashing Beacons to alert people driving to people walking in the crosswalk
- · 1 upgraded traffic signal with new left turn phases at 35th Avenue and Foothill to improve safety when turning
“Oaklanders demand and deserve a local government that puts their safety first, and today marks a major step forward delivering streets that are safer to walk, ride, or drive,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said. “Working through the many issues at play in Oakland’s traffic safety takes dedication, innovation, and a strong commitment to equity. New solutions like the improvements we’re making on 35th Avenue today are an example of how your local government is rising to meet that challenge. We know these changes have come too late for Deontae Bush and so many others for whom unsafe conditions on our streets have brought such tragedy and pain – and so we must do this work in their honor, and we thank Deontae’s family for helping make this progress possible.”
“We tell people to call 911 in an emergency, but for many residents in our community, every single day is an emergency and by the time they’re calling 911 it’s already too late,” said Councilmember Noel Gallo, who represented the Fruitvale and East Oakland district where the improvements were installed. “We have to prevent the tragedies that play out on our streets. These improvements on 35th Avenue are a major step forward, but there’s much more to do. The work keeps moving forward: I’ll be working with OakDOT, police, and others to bring new traffic safety policies forward in the spring through the City’s Safe Oakland Streets Initiative.”
Much of the City’s recent work on 35th Avenue has been dedicated to the memory of Mr. Bush and others who have been hurt or killed on the corridor. Bush’s family advocated strongly for improvements after his death. In 2019 a number of operational improvements were installed and the intersection of 35th Avenue and Galindo St was ceremonially renamed Deontae Bush Way.
“Words can’t explain how it feels knowing my brother’s death can help and will help other people,” said Cherie McCullum, Bush’s sister. “We are forever thankful. He was a huge loss for our family, so to see great things happening for our community, and a lot of improvements & awareness -- I cried tears of joy hearing about the improvements. Deontae was a great person and I know he would be so happy that his life became a message.”
"Pedestrian and vehicular issues are one of the most important aspects of public safety in Oakland,” said John Jones III, Director of Community and Political Engagement for Just Cities. “I’m grateful for OakDOT partnering with elected officials and community members to create viable solutions."
“OakDOT cannot thank Deontae’s family enough for their inspiring work driving progress here – nor can we express in words how much we care for them and for their loss, and for every family in Oakland who loses a loved one to traffic collisions,” said Ryan Russo, Director of the City of Oakland Department of Transportation (OakDOT). “We remain heartbroken for his loss, and we are humbled and driven to continue our work in his honor.”
“In the era of COVID-19 as longstanding inequities are growing and our communities are facing incredible challenges, we are working to deliver targeted improvements to our transportation system with the goal of creating a system that protects residents, where no one has to risk their life simply when trying to get around,” Russo added. “Safe mobility should be a basic human right, not a luxury—it should be one less thing for our communities to worry about, and we’re working to urgently achieve this by focusing all of our work where equity principles and data show us the dangers are greatest.”
Following Deontae’s death, Councilmember Gallo and OakDOT partnered to host a community discussion to identify solutions to the traffic safety issues plaguing the corridor. Many of the recommendations on the ground today are the result of that workshop, where best practices in traffic safety were combined with community experience to identify solutions that would be most effective in achieving safety along this challenging corridor.
The $3 million project was primarily paid for with federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funding awarded by Caltrans. Local matching funds were supported by Oakland’s Measure KK.
In addition to the improvements announced Tuesday, OakDOT delivered immediate improvements following Bush’s death in 2018 as part of the Department’s rapid response protocol to traffic crashes. Improvements included:
- Refreshed crosswalk markings to increase visibility for all
- Additional signage (“Yield to Pedestrians”) and traffic markings at uncontrolled crosswalks to highlight the crosswalks for drivers
- New striping on the right side of the travel lanes on 35th to help reduce speeds by visually narrowing the lane
- Upgraded curb standards that prohibit parking up to the intersection near crosswalks to improve visibility and yielding to people walking
The 35th Avenue project is just one of many projects the City is implementing to advance safety on our high injury corridors. Since the establishment of OakDOT in 2017, the City has implemented innovations to enhance safety on other high injury corridors, ranging from protected bicycle lanes, left turn traffic calming strategies, and using bold paint to slow turns and increase yielding.
In addition, the City will be releasing recommendations for a comprehensive, interdisciplinary traffic safety strategy in Spring 2021 to prevent severe and fatal traffic crashes and the injury inequities that disproportionately impact Oakland’s BIPOC communities, low-income communities, and seniors, without creating new inequities as a result of those actions.
To request street maintenance service or for more information, contact OAK311 by dialing 311 or 510-615-5566, e-mailing OAK311@oaklandca.gov, reporting online at oaklandca.gov/services/oak311, or using the free OAK311 mobile app for Apple and Android devices.