News

Town scrutinizes busy intersection at Hartz and Prospect

Curb extensions planned for better visibility

Downtown merchants, worried that the intersection of Hartz and Prospect is dangerous, presented the Town of Danville with a petition in that the fall asking that a four-way stop be installed.

"It's an important intersection, at the very heart of downtown," noted Tai Williams, Danville Transportation Director.

The petitioners said they were extremely concerned over safety at the intersection and listed four points:

1. The lack of visibility when facing west on Prospect wanting to turn left on Hartz, which often results in drivers inching forward;

2. The false sense of security pedestrians get when they activate the crossing lights;

3. The difficulty in seeing the flashing lights during the day;

4. East Prospect is set back and at a slight angle.

"A four way stop similar to the intersection at Railroad Avenue is the only way to remedy the situation," concluded the petition, which was signed by 51 business owners and interested parties.

However, studies have shown that a four-way stop is not the answer to the problem, Williams said.

"The installation of a four-way stop would have an incredibly negative impact on the northbound queue," she stated.

Hartz Avenue carries from 10,000-11,000 vehicles per day, she explained. If a four-way stop is installed, each of those thousands of vehicles has to stop, regardless of whether there is cross traffic.

"Right now in the northbound direction, our queue is backed up from the intersection of Prospect and Hartz to the short street by Molly's Pup-Purr-ee," she said. Models run by the town show that with a four-way stop, the stopped vehicles would extend to Church Street.

Prospect has about 2,300 vehicles per day, said Williams, so much of the time there is no cross traffic for Hartz.

"When drivers see there isn't traffic, there is a tendency to run the stop sign," she explained. "It's truly a traffic hazard: People are expecting cars to stop but due to lack of cross traffic, vehicles are trained to roll through."

"It's a false sense of security," she emphasized. "Our recommendation was not to install a four-way stop."

"We try not to solve one problem by creating others," she added. "We need to consider all the ramifications."

One problem found by the Town's studies is that vehicles on Prospect wanting to cross Hartz, or turn onto it, have limited visibility.

"People take chances, trying to insert themselves into the traffic scene," Williams noted. With so much going on, they may not see a pedestrian in the crosswalk.

"It is an issue especially during rush hour," she said.

One possibility was to eliminate parking places that blocked the views of the cross traffic. But this is always unpopular with downtown merchants.

After much discussion, the transportation department recommended extending the sidewalk into the street, which is known as a "bulb-out" or curb extension. Motorists tend to travel more slowly at intersections with bulb-outs as the street narrows and they also reduce turning speeds.

Bulb-outs would improve visibility for pedestrians and motorists plus would make the crossing distance shorter for the pedestrians, Williams pointed out. Prospect Avenue already has small bulb-outs at that corner.

This will eliminate a few parking spaces, she said, but not many.

Williams also noted that there really have been very few near-misses at the intersection although this may not be the perception.

"We've been out there ourselves doing our own observations," she said. "It's a challenging situation for us. There's only so much that traffic engineers can do to create a perfectly safe intersection."

The bottom line is that pedestrians need to cross with caution.

"The flashing crosswalk does not create a force field around you," said Williams.

The construction of the bulb-outs will be done in conjunction with the renovations of the Veterans Memorial Building at that same corner.

Comments

Posted by Ralph N. Shirlet, a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2010 at 7:03 am

Ralph N. Shirlet is a registered user.

Dear Dolores,

Prospect is a very narrow street and difficult for two way traffic. I would suggest that the Town of Danville consider closing the street and making it a shopping mall arcade-style walkway.

It might be possible to make Prospect safer by eliminating parking on one side of the street or all parking. With the parking lot and easy access just a half block away, Prospect is not likely needed for auto traffic and parking.

Hal


Posted by Julia, a resident of Alamo
on Jan 7, 2010 at 8:48 am

Hey Hal, you must be as old as I am. The closing and covering of Hartz Ave. was proposed about 25 years ago when I owned the building on Hartz next to Starbucks...at the time I thought it was a great idea, but the brain dead leaders at that time thought otherwise.

First of all the people must get it in their heads...just because the little flashing lights are blinking, that doesn't mean you just walk out in the middle of the street. You're right and you have the right of way...but you can also be dead right...not a good feeling.

Well, I'm sure the leaders will take a year or two to figure this one out and spend about $100,000 + asking some traffic consultant to solve the issue.

Danville does have problems, but the intersection issue is the least of them.

Take Care and be safe...do what your mother always said...look both ways before you cross the street.

Thanks, Julia

PS...I really like your idea Hal...Make Hartz a in or outdoor shopping mall.


Posted by Chuck Knowlton, a resident of Danville
on Jan 7, 2010 at 8:55 am

My wife and I walk our two dogs everyday along this route. We've never had a problem crossing the street, you just have TO BE AWARE, AND TAKE YOUR TIME: Make sure the cars see you, and you can proceed safely. My goodness, what ever happened to pedestrian personnal responisibility?

As far as the cars making a left hand turn onto Hartz, just paint a longer 'red'zone along all four couners: you may eliminate a few parking spots, but it WOULD open up the sight distance for these vehicles to proceed safely.

Stop signs are NOT the answer.


Posted by Kitty, a resident of Danville
on Jan 7, 2010 at 9:37 am

Do you not notice all the people who run traffic lights? I think stop signs would be a false security. Never cross a street in Danville without making eye contact with the driver.

I wish we had more motorcycle cops on the street.


Posted by Sue L, a resident of Danville
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:13 am

Adding a four-way stop at this intersection will just add to the congestion that exists every evening along Hartz. You'll have traffic backed-up into the intersection at Diablo Road and Hartz, too. Pedestrians are not only guilty of walking right out in front of cars when the lights are blinking in the crosswalk, they are also guilty of jaywalking all up and down the downtown area.
There is a lot for a driver to watch for along the whole downtown strip and pedestrians should be the main concern. However, it's hard to see people sometimes when you are taking everything else in, too. Cars parked along the curb on Hartz also make it harder to see the pedestrians.
Stops signs are not the answer, but more awareness on everyone's part should certainly help alleviate the problem.


Posted by Derek, a resident of Danville
on Jan 7, 2010 at 10:46 am

Cell phone chewing pedestrian, meet Darwin.
I agree with everything above, and considering how many Danvillers feel the need to operate huge SUV's (yeah, I know, you and your 1.3 kids can't live without the beastly pig), anyone shorter than 6'10" is impossible to see at times. So yes, the red curbs would help a lot. Those on foot will still cross Hartz though, so I'm not sure closing Prospect will help much even though I think it would be nice.


Posted by Bob K, a resident of Danville
on Jan 7, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Have there been any pedestrian injuries cause by vehicles at this intersection?


Posted by Sandy V., a resident of Montair Elementary School
on Jan 7, 2010 at 3:51 pm

There was one pedestrian downed about a year ago and there have been numerous car bumps. I like the bulb-out idea with red zones at all four corners. That would eliminate 4 parking spaces but would be worth the potential disaster of losing a life. I cross there by car every day and delivery trucks and large SUV's at the corner literally block all view of on-coming cross traffic.


Posted by Jim H., a resident of Danville
on Jan 7, 2010 at 4:55 pm

I treat this intersection as a 4 way stop. With or without a sign.

As a current business owner on Prospect st. I wholeheartedly endorse putting up a 4- way stop on this intersection. I have seen on a daily basis numerous near-misses. This includes fully aware pedestrians using the cross signal. I even recently witnessed a dog almost run over as a driver turned right onto Prospect from Hartz with out slowing and almost ran over the leashed dog as the owner was crossing Northbound. You can plainly recognize she barely slowed for that turn, her correction was to veer left into the oncoming lane of Prospect.

This intersection is a accident waiting to happen. People forget legally you have to yield to pedestrians if those lights are flashing (some of which were burnt out for a moment). There are times when i just wait..and wait..and wait for traffic to finally yield to those lights. Sometimes I look across the street and think "nah..i dont want to cross that street now. Its too Busy"

Hartz Ave is a downtown shopping district with a speed limit of 25mph. I rarely drive that fast even at the middle of night! I normally drive that street 5-10mph less because of the nature of the street and the density. A single stop sign wont increase traffic When majority of traffic already is stop and go (waiting for people to parallel park, merge, etc)

Plus you have 2 alternatives for Northbound traffic....Railroad Ave and Front St. Both are more suited for passing (non-shopper) traffic
And if traffic is such a concern..remember Hartz is not the only route northbound.

Downtown Danville needs to be more pedestrian friendly. Get people out of their cars and enjoy your town and your local businesses. Slow down. You live in a great place. Enjoy it.

PS It's better then a speed bump.


Posted by Denise, a resident of Danville
on Jan 8, 2010 at 11:03 am

I love to walk and cross that interesection all the time. Yes, you have to be careful - it is a crosswalk on a busy street. We do not need more lights or infrastructure. We are an autocentric society not pedestrian friendly. Even though the law in this state says pedestrians have right of way, that is not what always what occurs. Closing Prospect to traffic is not a sensible solution for retailers who already suffer from an economic downturn. Eliminating car traffic on a small retail street is a poor idea. We have a big parking lot right behind Prospect. Maybe people should start using it.


Posted by Jo, a resident of Danville
on Jan 8, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Yes put in a four way stop sign !!! People don't stop for pedestrians in the cross walk most of the time.. I have waited for many cars to pass before someone stops.. also I have started to walk out when clear but stopped many times when I see a car flying down the steet only to see them drive right by as I point to the crosswalk.. wake up people.. get off the cell phones..If they don't like the back up on Hartz they can go around.. many are just passing though ...


Posted by psmacintosh, a resident of Danville
on Jan 8, 2010 at 5:19 pm

psmacintosh is a registered user.

Bulb-outs make matters WORSE, not better!

Some pedestrians tend to walk quickly off the curb and into the street, just expecting all cars to stop for them.
These bulb-outs place the pedestrians farther out in front of the cars and thereby give the drivers even less time to react to them.
This is more dangerous.

Since the bulb-outs are really an extension of the sidewalk area, just because people are on the bulb-out, it is not necessarially apparent to a driver whether they want to cross the street or not.

The reason that cars need to creep out into the intersection is to see better, but also it is because cars on Hartz just assume the total right of way and never even stop or slow for the side traffic. People have to creep out and then interject themselves into smaller gaps and essentially force the Hartz traffic to slow down a bit for them. That is the main reason that cars are creeping out.

The REAL SOLUTION here (I almost hate to say it) is to have a SIGNAL.
The signal won't trip unless there is side traffic to trip an in-ground switch or pedestrian traffic to push the button. This keeps Hartz traffic flowing when there isn't any side cars.
This also means that side cars don't have to creep out any more--which means you don't have to reduce the parking spots on Hartz as well.
This solves all the problems.


Posted by BlackhawkAries, a resident of Blackhawk
on Jan 9, 2010 at 10:44 am

No matter what is done at that, or any other intersection.......
There are

Too many people (usually Moms with kids in the SUV) on their cell phones....
We see it DAILY!!!!


Posted by Gunslinger, a resident of Danville
on Jan 10, 2010 at 5:01 am

I agree with Hal. The stores would benefit, and certainly the walkers, if the area was shut down to vehicles and made pedestrian only.


Posted by CDSI Research Fellowship, a resident of Danville
on Jan 10, 2010 at 9:08 am

Dear Dolores,

Appropriate disclosure is due to the participants in this exchange. CDSI Research members, as funding professionals, are focusing on Danville as a rejuvenation project from Love Lane to Sycamore along Hartz and San Ramon Valley Blvd. As various properties and businesses required new, transitional, mezzanine and partial acquisition funding, these funding resources provided needed capital and moved funds management to a major property management company.

As the process continues, Danville will have Hartz Avenue much like Old Town Main Street in WC and major new corridor development as a low-profile, modest version of Broadway Plaza.

Hal/CDSI


Posted by capt. charles, a resident of Danville
on Jan 11, 2010 at 8:45 am

A four way stop is a must! Also, why not a four way stop on Danville Blvd. and El Cerro ! The speed through that area is very fast and there is very little enforcement from the police. Control the unsafe behaviour of the traffic and you will have a good town.


Posted by Bill L., a resident of Danville
on Jan 11, 2010 at 9:04 am

Put a Stop sign there!

Also why go the expensive and drastic route with "bulb-outs" first.

What are the cost differences of just placing 4 stop signs, and painting the street VS. Construction bulb-outs, removing parking spots, and the pavement work that comes along with it.

That intersection is still difficult to cross even with those fancy lights.

Go the safer and cheaper route and place a stop sign there!


Posted by Susan H., a resident of Danville
on Jan 11, 2010 at 10:52 am

How about more law enforcement? I live up Prospect and walk the area frequently. I often see drivers ignoring the pedestrians. Drivers are supposed to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. I also see inattentive walkers who endanger themselves, so it's not just the drivers' fault.

I'd rather see a signal than a 4-way stop sign at that intersection. When they were putting in the wires for the flashing walkway, I initially thought it was for a signal and was a little disappointed to find it was just the lighted crosswalk (with lights that show OK in the dark, but not in the daytime).


Posted by Julie, a resident of Danville
on Jan 11, 2010 at 3:12 pm

That intersection desperately needs something. I think a light would be the best way to go.

Prospect only has 2300 cars a day because no one goes that way because it's impossible and unsafe to get across Hartz!! Hello! Do the people making these decisions even live in Danville?

There is no where to cross Hartz eastbound safely as a car or a pedestrian. Am I the only one frustrated by that?

And bulb outs are a nightmare! All that does is make it harder to tell when someone wants to cross the street and add bicycle traffic weaving around the bulb-outs to the problem.


Posted by Gunslinger, a resident of Danville
on Jan 11, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Danville requires no more heavy development. ZERO! Thank you Hal for making people aware.


Posted by Gunslinger, a resident of Danville
on Jan 11, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Danville requires no more heavy development. ZERO! Thank you Hal for making people aware.


Posted by Bob K, a resident of Danville
on Jan 12, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Let's put in an elevated walkway like they have in Vegas! Small town...small problems.


Posted by Pedal Power, a resident of Danville
on Jan 12, 2010 at 9:27 pm

In this location my vote is definitely for traffic lights.

And please, please, please, NO MORE (blanking) BULB-OUTS. If anything, I'd bvote for spending a buck or two to get rid of the one on Railroad. You only need look at the tire marks to see what a hazard it is to cars, and it is a definite hazard to bicycles.

IMHO it is more likely to put someone in a wheel chair than help someone who is already in one cross the street. (Wish fulfillment for bulb-outs?) It is an accident waiting to happen and, as such, it is a liability for the town, not an asset.

If enough people boycott those establishments on the East side of Railroad, along that stretch, any maybe someone will get the message.


Posted by psmacintosh, a resident of Danville
on Jan 13, 2010 at 11:31 am

"One problem found by the Town's studies is that vehicles on Prospect wanting to cross Hartz, or turn onto it, have limited visibility. 'People take chances, trying to insert themselves into the traffic scene,'....."

It is NOT a VISIBILITY problem.
(Cars on Prospect can see the cars coming down Hartz. The Hartz drivers just don't stop/slow for anyone, unless someone has enough of a gap and the nerve to pull out somewhat in front of them to force them to slow.)

The REAL PROBLEM is with small traffic gaps and insensitive (mind-elsewhere) drivers who don't allow the cross-traffic to enter.
(Don't get in MY way! I'm busy, I'm going places. You wait until "sometime after I'm long gone." It's your problem, not mine.)

We don't need fewer parking spots.
We need the Hartz traffic to STOP for the side street traffic (at times when the side street has traffic--cars or pedesterians).


Posted by psmacintosh, a resident of Danville
on Jan 13, 2010 at 11:42 am

Bulb-outs have an additional problem--they are harder to park near.

You often have to back into the parking spot and perhaps go back-and-forth to get spaced correctly by the curb and centered in the spot.
This all takes more TIME and EFFORT than a non-bulb-out location.

Extra time can stop traffic flow much longer.
Extra motions and backing can cause more accidents and danger.

(I'd like to put bulb-outs in some "Planners" home driveways and home streets, so they can really see the consequences.
Oh, and put in some speed bumbs as well. How about a couple of them in their garage!)


Posted by psmacintosh, a resident of Danville
on Jan 13, 2010 at 11:59 am

4-way Stop Sign versus Signal?

I am wondering whether the people here--who commented that they want a Stop Sign--actually prefer a 4-way Stop Sign over a Signal, or are they just recommending that the Hartz cars have to come to a full stop at some point.

Yes, Stop Signs cost less and can be put up quicker.

However, the one thing a Signal can do that a Stop Sign can't is to only stop the Hartz traffic WHEN there actually is some side traffic present. With a Signal, there can be a variety of types of "timing" alternatives selected as well.

Stop Signs back up each car on Hartz and create a line-up of waiting traffic.
Stop Signs force Hartz cars to stop even when there is no side traffic at all and at 4 AM.

A signal would allow better traffic flow and safety than even a 4-way Stop.

A signal also controls the pedestrians.
No more "right of way" for the pedestrians to constantly step in front of traffic whenever they want to and force the flowing traffic to stop. Pedestrians will have a proper time to cross as well.


Posted by Barbara, a resident of Danville
on Jan 13, 2010 at 4:02 pm

How about making Hartz one-way either south or north bound. And extending the red zone on the appropriate side of the street on Hartz to help improve visibility. There is still Front Street and Railroad that are 2 way.

Another dangerous issue is Railroad exiting from Peet's coffee or Lunardi's parking lot going north. This has the same issue requiring a driver to inch out into the bike lane to see traffic. Extend the red zone in front of Lunardi's. There is parking right there in the lot, why the street?


Posted by barb, a resident of Danville
on Jan 13, 2010 at 5:24 pm

No traffic lights! Thsi is a small town and I want to keep that small town feeling with no lights or parking meters like big ugly cities!


Posted by Pedal Power, a resident of Danville
on Jan 13, 2010 at 10:16 pm

psmacintosh - thank you for the many excellent points.

Barb/ara - We already have quite a few traffic lights, one more isn't going to kill the small town feeling. And my experience with one-way streets in small towns on the other side of the Atlantic is that traffic speeds go up, so it is no easier for pedestrians to cross, and it is harder for cars to get to where they want to go.

PS - Someone should study how they use traffic lights in downtown Walnut Creek (fixed interval?) and then do something different since, in my experience they are a pain both for pedestrians and vehicles.


Posted by Greg, a resident of Danville
on Jan 16, 2010 at 7:03 am

Noone has been killed at that intersection yet. I say leave it go!


Posted by Lisa, a resident of Danville
on Jan 16, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Greg - weren't you the person who suggested the runner who was intentionally hit while running in the bike lane was "asking for it"?

Should we wait until someone is killed in that intersection, then act?

I'm with psmacintosh and pedal power - sound thinking, both of you.


Posted by Greg, a resident of Danville
on Jan 18, 2010 at 7:10 am

I'm sorry Lisa, I didn't know the runner was intenionally hit! But when you play in the street you are asking for trouble. I thought the guy was running in the street with dark clothing on in the dark and someone accidently hit him because they did not see him and fled the scene.
The way things work most of the time..........someone will have to get killed before anything is done about it......THINK ABOUT IT!
Ask Julia!


Posted by Lisa, a resident of Danville
on Jan 20, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Greg, the article sounded to me as though the hit was intentional - the driver went right for the runner, struck him even though he jumped out of the way, and went on to nail a light pole and take off. Though, who knows - they could have just been a bad driver.

The article didn't describe the runner as wearing dark clothing, but did state he didn't have reflective clothing on which no doubt would have helped had the drive simply not noticed him - or the light pole in this case. I've actually been guilty of running in the bike lane myself as it gets dark out as it is easy to not notice curbs and therefore trip over them if you have a decent pace. I've stopped since reading this article though.

I hope no one needs to die before a change is made!


Posted by jrm, a resident of Vista Grande Elementary School
on Jan 20, 2010 at 4:47 pm

jrm is a registered user.

IMHO we do not need any significant changes at that intersection, perhaps expanding the red zones to provide additional field of vision but anything else will just exacerbate the traffic delays. I drive by there everyday and it is amazing how many folks still talk on their cell phones after the rule change. Just slow down and chill.


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