Petaluma officials Monday approved a project to repair failing lighting systems at two major crosswalks in the city, an effort expected to boost public safety.
Previously installed lights embedded in the pavement intended to alert drivers that a pedestrian is in the crosswalk are defunct at both the crossing at Edith Street at East Washington Street and the Crystal Lane roundabout on Petaluma Boulevard South, according to city reports. After the city council’s unanimous approval, work to install new systems is set to begin in September and wrap up by October.
The new “rectangular rapid rectangular flashing beacons” will be placed on brightly-colored pedestrian warning signs near the crosswalks, and the lights will be activated when a pedestrian or cyclist pushes the button to cross, City Engineer Curt Bates said. That system, which will cost $107,000 including installation, is preferable to the existing one, where lights in the pavement are often damaged by passing vehicles, Bates said.
“The system being in operation will assure that drivers can see pedestrians when the pedestrian enters the crosswalk with the lights flashing,” Dan St. John, the city’s director of public works and utilities said.
Funding from the projects comes from the city’s street maintenance fund and Sonoma County Transportation Authority funds.
The crosswalk on Crystal Lane has long been a concern for resident Dick Jensen, who has goaded the city into action over accidents and public safety at the crossing. His concerns include the defunct crossing lights and safety devices as well as signs that have been knocked down by drivers.
He said the current work doesn’t appear to go far enough to assuage his concerns. Bates said various repairs have been undergone in past years, but it’s not immediately clear when both crosswalks stopped functioning.
“I’ve given up on expecting the city of Petaluma to deal with this,” Jensen said in an email.
Data about accidents that occurred specifically in the crosswalk was not available, though Bates said the city has received multiple reports of cars running into the roundabout at Crystal Lane and knocking down signs.
In the past 10 years, 38 collisions with six injuries have been reported at the intersection of Petaluma Boulevard South and Crystal Lane, Petaluma Police Officer Matt Frick said. At the intersection of Edith Street and East Washington Street, 17 accidents with five injuries have been reported, he said.
There are about 24 lighted crosswalks through the city, Bates said, though he’s not aware of any others that are currently nonfunctional.
“We continue to replace in ground pavement lights as necessary to keep them operating,” he said.
City Councilman Gabe Kearney said although the project will help increase safety, pedestrians should remain vigilant.
“Sometimes people feel a false sense of security in crosswalks,” he said. “But hopefully, with brighter and better lit crosswalks, drivers will be able to see pedestrians and we can avoid accidents.”
(Contact Hannah Beausang at firstname.lastname@example.org.)