A motorist sustained broken bones and a possible concussion on Tuesday afternoon when a driver ran a red light and struck a vehicle at Cedar and Sacramento streets in northwest Berkeley.
Few details about the crash have been available this week from police, who are still working on the investigation. But it was just the latest in a series of collisions in the area that have sparked neighborhood concerns. On Wednesday, Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani — who represents the district where the collisions took place — featured traffic safety in her community newsletter and described several efforts underway to address the concerns.
One neighbor, writing on Twitter, said there had been two serious crashes at the intersection in less than 24 hours, following a third bad crash several weeks prior.
“And these are just the incidents that result in collision — neighbors concur that we hear near misses all the time,” wrote local resident Jen King. “I’m growing wary of even crossing this intersection on foot anymore. Just wait until BART riders come back and local schools return.”
Another community member wrote that there have been three collisions at the intersection in nine days, adding: “What will it take to get traffic/ speeding / running reds resolved here? Berkeley leaders – please step up. It’s way past time.”
Tuesday’s crash took place just before 4:20 p.m. and involved a southbound driver on Sacramento who ran a red light, police said. That driver struck another vehicle. Police had limited information to share Wednesday, pending the ongoing investigation, but photos from the scene showed a white Toyota Tacoma truck and a dark-colored Toyota Prius that struck a tree when it came to rest.
An off-duty firefighter-paramedic who happened to be in the area helped render aid at the scene, according to emergency radio traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside. One first responder reported to dispatch that all parties were awake after the crash: “Everybody’s conscious, just shaken up.”
In her newsletter Wednesday, Kesarwani said she shares “neighbors’ concern about the frequency of car crashes that have occurred at the Cedar and Sacramento intersection in recent days.”
According to Kesarwani, Public Works staff visited the intersection Wednesday morning “to observe and explore safety options.” She said her office had also spoken with the city’s transportation manager to find out what might be done.
In the short term, she said, “Transportation staff are considering an all-red phase to the Cedar and Sacramento signal to give vehicles time to clear the intersection after pushing through on a yellow light. This is a relatively easy change because it simply involves reprogramming the signal.”
There is also a new traffic signal in the works at Sacramento and Virginia Street, which is slated to be done by the end of July, she wrote. The new light “will likely have some effect in moderating traffic speed on Sacramento since it will stop traffic more often than currently occurs.”
In her email, Kesarwani said she had also asked the city to trim trees on Cedar Street, near Sacramento and California streets, to make it easier to see street signs and signals.
Kesarwani also updated constituents about a recent traffic enforcement operation on Cedar Street that took place June 10 after community members reported the failure of commercial vehicles to follow the city’s weight limit rules. That day, police stopped 46 vehicles and wrote 41 tickets for 68 different vehicle code violations, Kesarwani said.
In the longer term, Kesarwani wrote, her office had asked the city about adding a left-turn signal from Sacramento onto Cedar. She was advised it would be an expensive undertaking: “This is a significant capital project, likely to require new underground conduits, signal poles/mast arms, and other signal hardware,” staff advised. “Until we know if existing hardware can be reused and if ADA upgrades are needed, it is hard to say if this would cost on the order of $150,000 for partial upgrades, or potentially at least four times that amount for a complete signal replacement.”
Her office also asked whether it might be possible to lower the speed limit in the area, but was advised by the city that this would require a change in state law.
Coming up in January 2022, the city will resume traffic-calming efforts that have been on hold, Kesarwani wrote, which will allow staff “to evaluate all the streets that have applied” for new traffic-calming measures. Sacramento Street between Cedar and Rose streets is on that list.
The city has said it might look at installing speed feedback signs in the area, but that speed tables “would impact buses and emergency response vehicles,” according to Kesarwani’s email.
The council member said she is also planning a community meeting where neighbors will be able to share feedback and ideas with city staff. For additional information and to receive updates, email firstname.lastname@example.org.