Pushing for Safety

The Ashland Traffic Safety Commission on Thursday evening approved several crosswalk recommendations for Siskiyou Boulevard that the public works department can put into effect relatively soon.

The commission voted unanimously to increase the wattage of the tall street lights in the Siskiyou Boulevard medians from the Morse/Beach intersection to the Frances Lane intersection near Market of Choice grocery store.

ODOT's Transportation Safety Division's Web site states that 46 percent of all pedestrian crashes in 2006 occurred at dusk, dawn or in low light conditions.

The street lights, called cobra heads, currently have 70-watt bulbs. The commission approved changing them to 150 watts. Ashland Interim Public Works Director Jim Olson said the move would cost the city about $5,000, but could be done almost immediately.

The commission also recommended installing quarter-inch-high, thermo-plastic rumble strips, which cause drivers to feel a rumble when they drive over them, as well as adding pavement markings to indicate a pedestrian crossing ahead. These improvements will be placed at the first series of crosswalks on each side of Siskiyou Boulevard near Southern Oregon University.

Deltra Ferguson, with SOU's Women's Resource Center, said she liked the idea of rumble strips, especially for the morning commute when the sun is in drivers' eyes.

She told the commission that every morning when she crosses the "Garfield Gauntlet," she waves her briefcase in the air until she reaches the other side.

Ferguson said, "That may seem silly, but that intersection is very dangerous."

All commissioners approved petitioning the state traffic engineer to reduce the speed limit to 20 or 25 mph from Gresham Street to Walker Avenue. Olson pointed out that the state controls all speed zones in every community and would have to conduct a speed study before it would change the current speed zone.

Preston Moser of Medford told the commission that he witnessed SOU student Gladys Jimenez' accident on Feb. 13 and urged them to reduce the speed to 20 mph instead of 25.

"I was driving in the opposite direction as the vehicle that hit Gladys and it appeared to me the vehicle was traveling the speed limit. I saw Gladys flip in the air. I saw the whole sickening accident. And I doubt if the car had been going 5 miles an hour slower, that that would have saved Gladys' life," he said.

A U.S. Department of Transportation study says a pedestrian hit at 30 mph has a 45 percent chance of being killed, while at 20 mph, the fatality rate is only five percent.

Commissioner Matt Warshawsky also supported a 20 mph speed limit for that section of Siskiyou Boulevard, but said he wasn't confident it would happen.

The commission also voted to not close the Garfield intersection and recommend pedestrian-controlled, crosswalk flashing lights at the Bridge and Garfield street intersections.

Olson said the cost of two crosswalk lights at each of those intersections would cost approximately $6,000 each and could be installed in about a month.

Commissioners Colin Swales and Warshawsky voted against the recommendation.

Swales said he didn't think crosswalk lights should be installed without a study being conducted first.

"I think we're acting in panic mode," he said, and Warshawsky agreed.

Ashland City Councilor Cate Hartzel also spoke at the meeting, saying she wanted someone with more expertise than she, the traffic commission and Olson to conduct a study to find out what exactly is going on with that stretch of Siskiyou.

"I want to know what the problem actually is before we start throwing too much money at this," she said.

Reach reporter at 482-3456 x226 or .

Share This Story