'It's just a dangerous, dangerous area'

  • Alejandro Sotres has been collecting signatures for a petition to address safety concerns along Mission Boulevard, in Santa Rosa. A pedestrian was hit by a vehicle at this crosswalk at Mission Boulevard and Randall Lane.

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.

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