Pedestrians are calling for improved safety measures at the intersection at Hartz and Prospect avenues, and town officials say a solution is coming — but not until December 2011.
"It's hard to cross," said Kathy Spomer a relationship manager at Patelco Credit Union on Hartz Avenue. "Cars go flying down the road, especially at night."
Bulb-outs will be added to the intersection after the Veteran's Hall renovation project is completed in December 2011, said Danville Transportation Director Tai Williams. The estimated cost to the city is $152,000.
Bulb-outs extend the sidewalk across the street's parking lane making pedestrians more visible. They also make the crossing distance shorter. To see bulb-outs at work in Danville, take a look at the west side of Hartz Avenue at the intersection of Hartz and Prospect avenues or at the intersection of Hartz and Linda Mesa avenues.
The Danville Police Department conducted a plain clothes traffic operation in October 2009 after receiving complaints from residents about the intersection.
Lt. Mark Williams said the operation was conducted on a weekday from 7:30 to 11 a.m. using a decoy who crossed the street 122 times as uniformed officers monitored. Williams said 71 pedestrians crossed during that time, while officers stopped 10 vehicles and issued one citation.
"I know officers pay a lot of attention to that area," he said. "We're constantly monitoring that intersection."
In September 2009 downtown merchants submitted a petition to the town signed by 53 business owners and residents requesting a four-way stop at the intersection.
A discussion was started on April 2 on the Danville Express about pedestrian safety at the intersection, and readers said they thought a four-way stop would help.
"As a pedestrian myself, I can understand their perspective, "said Tai Williams, transportation director for Danville since 2001.
She said, however, that after a consultant did traffic study in 2009, the town determined a four-way stop is not a viable solution. "We try not to solve the problem by inadvertantly creating a series of other ones," she said. "That is what would happen if we installed a four-way stop."
She explained that Hartz Avenue and Railroad Avenue each carry 10,000 to 11,000 vehicles a day. Add a four-way stop and each vehilce would have to stop, whether or not cross-traffic was present. Traffic engineers have found that when cross-traffic is not present, drivers are tempted to roll through the stop sign, and eventually learn to ignore the stop sign. She said traffic engineers are hesitant to install four-way stop signs for that reason.
"It creates a false sense of safety for pedestrians," she said.
In 2003, the town installed a lighted crosswalk at the intersection to further help alert drivers of pedestrians crossing.
The traffic study found that the four-way stop would pose another problem—traffic congestion.
During rush hour, downtown Danville sees congestion from the intersection of Hartz and Prospect to Molly's Pup Purr Ee at 425 Hartz Ave. The study found that the addition of a four-way stop at the intersection would increase the congestion to Church Street.
Whatever measures the town takes, "at the end of the day we do feel compelled to remind pedestrians that it is always very important to look both ways and ensure the driver has seen you," Tai Williams said. "Because of the friendliness of the downtown, sometimes there is a tendency to step on to the street withouth looking both ways."