Romy Douglass says it plainly… if not bluntly.
“We don’t want to wait for a child to die. We want to be proactive,” said the PTA president at Kensington Hilltop Elementary School.
Douglass’ sentiment is similar to a number of parents at her school.
They are working actively with police and Contra Costa County transportation officials to bring about changes they say are needed at the intersection of Rincon Road and Arlington Avenue.
Rincon Avenue doesn’t quite sync up with the driveway leading out of the library and school, making for some awkward left and right turns onto Arlington.
“Every single day I’m here, something dangerous happens. There’s something every single day,” said Douglass.
Neighbors have been clamoring for changes since at least 2008.
Michelle Fillingim, the PTA treasurer, said Arlington Avenue is always busy, but it’s particularly hectic during rush hour and when the school day is beginning and ending.
One of the biggest problems is Arlington is used as a thoroughfare. Fillingim said there is one stop sign on Arlington between Marin Avenue and Moeser Lane. Between the same two streets on San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito there are 11 stoplights.
The posted speed limit on Arlington is 25 miles per hour, but that is frequently violated by the 8,000 drivers who use that road on a daily basis.
“People just fly through here,” said Fillingim.
Some changes have occurred in recent years.
A crosswalk across Arlington with a traffic light that constantly flashes yellow and changes to red when activated by a pedestrian has been in place for about a decade.
A crossing guard paid for by Kensington Police is now stationed at the light when children are arriving and departing from school.
However, Douglass, Fillingim and their neighbors want more.
They met with Contra Costa transportation officials and the police chief last week after a parent and child were almost hit two weeks ago by a motorist trying to make a left off Arlington.
The neighbors asked about a number of possible additions to the intersection.
One is speed humps along Arlington to slow drivers down.
Monish Sen, a senior traffic engineer for the county, said these bumps are usually installed on smaller neighborhood streets and not near traffic lights.
Another request is to make the intersection a four-way stop by putting in stop signs on all sides.
“That would cost next to nothing,” said Douglass.
Sen said the signs could create additional traffic impacts and wouldn’t be as safe as the current light.
“It would be a step back,” he said.
Another is to have the light blinking red at all times and then change to a solid red when activated. Or put in a regular traffic light that is green most of the time for Arlington but changes from yellow to red when activated.
Sen said these suggestions would also create other traffic impacts.
“They could lead to a lot of frustration,” said Sen. “I’m not sure safety would be enhanced.”
Another suggestion is to install blinking halogen beacons along the crosswalk to alert drivers that someone is in the crosswalk.
However, Sen said those beacons generally aren’t installed at intersections where traffic lights exist. A traffic light, he noted, is safer.
Neighbors have also inquired about prohibiting left turns on Arlington and side streets. Sen said the county will soon do some traffic counts to determine if this idea is feasible.
Finally, the idea of a pedestrian overpass has come up.
Sen said such a bridge would be expensive and difficult to build on the hillside road. There also might not be enough public right of way to make it happen.
“There are a lot of challenges there,” he said.
Sen said the county is considering putting in a sign that reminds drivers to “stop here on red” at the crosswalk.
That might ease one concern of neighbors. They say people get confused when approaching the blinking yellow or the red. Sometimes they aren’t sure whether to slow down, stop or keep going.
“People are so used to the blinking yellow light that when it turns red they sometimes don’t know what to do,” said Fillingim.
The county also has a work order submitted to cut back vegetation along Arlington that obscures the light.
Neighbors say they’d like the changes sooner rather than later.