A darkened Cloverdale crosswalk that has been the scene of death and injury soon will be much brighter and have in-road flashing lights to make it safer for pedestrians.
The City Council on Wednesday night unanimously approved the installation of a second overhead street light at the crosswalk, along with a $55,000 LightGuard system, consisting of embedded, flashing amber lights on each side of the crosswalk that are automatically activated by the presence of a pedestrian.
"I'm happy. It gives us a little peace," said Gloria Ponce, whose 68-year-old mother, Maria Ponce, was struck and fatally injured at the crosswalk on South Cloverdale Boulevard at Healdsburg Avenue the night of July 7.
"They're going to do something in Cloverdale for the safety of the community," she said. She wore a pink T-shirt with a photograph of her mother and the words "always in my heart Mom" at Wednesday's meeting.
According to the Police Department, the intersection where the crosswalk is located has been the scene of five accidents in the past year involving pedestrians or bicyclists struck by moving vehicles, resulting in trauma, injury or death.
The most recent incident involved two boys, ages 12 and 13, who were struck Halloween night by a pickup driver who said he didn't see them.
The boy who suffered the worst injuries, Enrique Andrade, underwent two surgeries on his badly broken legs. He was still in Children's Hospital Oakland on Wednesday night, almost two weeks after the accident. He has moved out of the intensive-care unit, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
In the case of the earlier fatality involving Ponce, the driver, Guadalupe Castro Barragan, 83, is facing vehicular manslaughter charges. Police said he failed to yield to a pedestrian and was not wearing corrective lenses, a condition required of him the last time he renewed his driver's license.
Following Ponce's death, grieving members of her large family consisting of nine children, as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, packed the City Council chamber to demand safety improvements be put in at the crosswalk.
The city increased police enforcement there and also had a consultant looking at potential traffic improvements along South Cloverdale Boulevard. Then the two young cousins were struck in the crosswalk, lending new urgency to the issue and more angry, sometimes-tearful pleas to the council for something to be done about the crosswalk.
City Manager Paul Cayler said the need for safety improvements "is definitely something that has united the community. They wanted something done."
"It's one of the council's top priorities, if not the top priority," he said Wednesday prior to the council's action.
The city couldn't afford a $250,000 traffic signal at the intersection, and council members rejected a couple of cheaper options, including installing a four-way stop. On Wednesday, they also rejected a restriping alternative that would slow traffic by narrowing the travel lanes and adding a pedestrian "island" and turn pockets along the broad 66-foot width of the boulevard.
Police Chief Mark Tuma said he had concerns about the potential for turning vehicles to block pedestrian visibility under such a scheme and instead recommended the lighting system that the council ended up approving.
"It's going to be a very effective system for that location. It's going to do them a world of good," Michael Harrison, founder of LightGuard Systems, said prior to Wednesday's council's meeting.