Home » City: No stop light planed for once deadly crosswalk in South Sacramento
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City: No stop light planed for once deadly crosswalk in South Sacramento

The crosswalk in question.

Update (5/22, 9:00 a.m.):

The director of Public Works, Jerry Way, meet with Terry Preston of WalkSacramento and the West High School students after the City Council meeting on Tuesday, and directed them to seek funding for the crosswalk from the Sacramento Unified School District. Sacramento Councilmember Kevin Mccarty had arranged the meeting.

Preston said he was encouraged by the conversation and would reach out to the school district soon. Sac Press will cover the efforts to get a crosswalk at 58th and Fruitridge as they develop.  

A crosswalk in South Sacramento that activists and community members call dangerous won’t get a traffic light for another 25 years, but it could either be improved or eliminated altogether within the next few years, according to a city official.

Public Works spokesperson Linda Tucker said that the city tracks data to identity which crosswalks needs improvement, and that the city’s records do not indicate that the crosswalk at 58th and Fruitridge, where 16-year-old student Michelle Murigi lost her life last year, is dangerous. Murgi was a student at West Campus High School, which is two blocks from the intersection.

"It is the only known fatality in the history of this crosswalk, but we understand that members of the community may believe that it is overly dangerous," she said

The crosswalk spans four lanes of traffic, and cars regularly travel at speeds of 40-50 miles per hour, according to recent posts on Sac Press by Vanessa Hernandez. A local college student, Hernandez recently produced a short web documentary about the crosswalk and Michelle Murigi’s death.

Hernandez will join representatives from the nonprofit WALKSacramento and West Campus High School students at the City Council meeting tonight in support of installing a traffic light at the intersection.

“I’m hoping that the City Council really takes notice that people haven’t forgotten about this issue, because it’s still in people’s minds that live in the area, they have to deal with it, everyday,” Hernandez said.

Tucker said that the Public Works department evaluates several criteria – like traffic volume, numbers of pedestrians, the number of lanes, number of accidents reported and the average speed of vehicles – when determining what crosswalks need upgrades or traffic signals, and establishes a list of priority sites. While community input is welcome, it is not part of the formal criteria that the city considers.

58th and Fruitridge is 25th on the list of problem intersections, meaning there are 24 other crosswalks the city considers to be in more urgent need of a stop light. A recent traffic study of the area during before and after-school hours found that only five people were using the crosswalk or crossing the street nearby, and which is one of the factors the city considered, Tucker said.

Traffic signals cost the Public Works more than $250,000 to install, and the department can only afford to add one per year, she said.

"At this point, if we didn’t have any further funding or partners that might be able to come in and help fund it, you’re looking at, unfortunately, about 25 years before a traffic signal would go in there."

However, within the next year, the city will be upgrading its pedestrian guidelines to be in line with recent federal guidelines. The Public Works Department will also look into grants for possible safety enhancements at crosswalks.

In some cases, Tucker said that the smartest policy is actually to remove the crosswalk altogether. The city hasn’t considered taking this step at 58th and Fruitridge, but it may at some point.

"When you look at the possibility of eliminating a crosswalk, it sounds counterintuitive for safety, but it actually isn’t because if you do have vehicles driving at a high rate of speed and you have a high volume of vehicles, any kind of crosswalk (without a traffic signal) can give pedestrians a false sense of security."

The City Council meeting starts at 6:00 p.m. in City Hall. Walk Sacramento and the West Campus High School students will speak at the beginning of the meeting. Hernandez, whose documentary will be shown, expects that this won’t be the only meeting they attend.

“I imagine it’s going to take more than just this one time,” she said. “I’m just hoping to at least move some people.” 

Editor’s note: The “News Digest” goes out every Tuesday morning and highlights our best stories, photos and videos from the week prior. Sign me up.

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