'It's just a dangerous, dangerous area'
Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 6:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 7:29 a.m.
At a yellow pedestrian-crossing sign on Santa Rosa's Mission Boulevard, wilted and faded gladiolas, sunflowers and carnations mark the unfortunate choice made last month by 24-year-old Alejandro Torres to cross the street.
It's a choice made all the time by residents who live near this crosswalk, a straight course that begins at the corner of Randall Lane, cuts across four lanes of brisk traffic and ends, curiously, at a curb, shrubbery and a tree.
The crosswalk is near the apex of a fast curve on Mission Boulevard. Some local residents say that crossing the street at night is simply too dangerous.
"This is an invisible pedestrian crosswalk," said local resident Alejandro Sotres, adding that cars traveling north from Highway 12 "can't see the crosswalk until it's too late."
Since late last month, Sotres has been collecting signatures on a petition aimed at encouraging city officials to make the crosswalk safer. The signatures, about 80, were submitted this week to the Santa Rosa city manager and mayor.
Among other things, Sotres said the crosswalk on the west side of Mission Boulevard should be finished and made fully accessible to people in wheelchairs. Sotres and others say the crosswalk, as well as a crosswalk on Sherbrook Lane, just north of Randall Lane, also should have flashing lights alerting motorists that pedestrians are present.
For neighbors, the tragic death last month was waiting to happen.
On Oct. 21, Torres and his best friend, David Farias, were returning from Torres' house in west Santa Rosa. Farias parked his car in the driveway next to his apartment on the west side of Mission Boulevard. As usual, Torres parked his car across the street on Randall Lane.
Moments later, Torres stepped into the crosswalk and was hit by a passing car. He was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with head injuries and died the following morning.
Torres, who worked for a local medical parts company, came to the United States when he was 17 and briefly lived with his sister in the Central Valley before moving to Santa Rosa in 2006. He often sent money back to Mexico to help support his mother.
"No one feels safe crossing the street," said Isaac Dolido, another friend of Torres.
Sotres, a pastor at The Bridge Community Church in Sebastopol, said he believes the south section of Mission Boulevard is inherently dangerous because of its design. He points out that north of Culebra Avenue, parking is permitted on either side of Mission. There's also a bike lane on the east side of the roadway.
When motorists traveling north on Mission get to Culebra they automatically slow down, he said. In contrast, he said, traffic on Mission usually speeds up south of Culebra, where no parking is allowed. Drivers often ignore the posted speed limit of 35 mph.
"The main problem is the speed that's tolerated on Mission Boulevard," Sotres said.
In response to the accident and the petition, the city will launch its own investigation after the Police Department has completed its assessment, Santa Rosa City Manager Kathy Millison said.
"We certainly want to wait for police to finish their report," Millison said. "We're also going to look at whether there are any pending projects that address these issues."
Farias said he also has been collecting signatures on a petition aimed at getting embedded road lighting at the crosswalk.
He said he's collected about 200 signatures, mostly from students at Santa Rosa Junior College, where he studies digital media. Torres was taking English classes at the school.
"Cars either don't see people or they don't want to slow down," Farias said.
"I just want to make it a safer crosswalk. I've seen mothers with kids crossing the street . . . there's tons of apartments. It's just a dangerous, dangerous area."
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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