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Safety measures urged at deadly Sunset intersection

Sunset District Supervisor Gordon Mar is asking questions of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency questions about safety measures following the death of Blake McGrath, 38, who was killed in a hit-and-run crash at the intersection of 46th Avenue and Lincoln Way on Jan. 29.

McGrath was the passenger of an Uber vehicle that was heading westbound on Lincoln Way and making a left turn onto 46th Avenue. A black Audi traveling eastbound crashed into the Uber vehicle, killing McGrath and injuring the Uber driver. The SFMTA’s rapid response team reviewed the crash and made no new safety measure recommendations at the intersection.

In a letter dated Feb. 7, addressed to the SFMTA’s Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin, Streets Division Director Tom Maguire and forwarded to the agency’s Board of Directors, Mar is asking transit officials to produce “any and all records from the traffic engineering review” of the intersection where McGrath was killed.

Mar wrote that a constituent in October 2020 shared concerns with his office over the traffic conditions at the intersection. Mar’s office forwarded the letter to the agency along with his support for the constituent’s request for the installation of speed humps on 46th Avenue and to transform the intersection to a three-way stop. The intersection has a stop sign at 46th Avenue, but none for traffic traveling on Lincoln Way.

Speed humps were installed but the SFMTA denied the request for stop signs in a letter back to the constituent, citing that a stop sign already existed on 46th Avenue, which requires vehicles to yield the right of way to vehicles traveling on Lincoln Way, adding:

Because Lincoln Way carries the predominate flow of traffic, the present arrangement of traffic control is appropriate for this intersection. Our observations indicate that the vast majority of drivers comply with the right-of-way rules. These observations are further substantiated by the safety record of this intersection over the last five years…”

SFMTA Senior Engineer Thomas Folks, who wrote back to the constituent, added that the agency recommended extending the daylighting at the southwest corner to improve visibility for drivers and pedestrians.

Mar wrote in his letter that the safety record of intersection no longer “substantiates inaction” by the SFMTA:

…We cannot reach Vision Zero by waiting for every intersection to count enough collisions to justify design improvements. Preventing collisions before they happen and saving lives before they’re lost must be justification enough.”

The supervisor said that this was not the first time that requests for pedestrian safety measures were denied by the SFMTA because of the safety record of the intersection. Some examples he gave include the intersections of 32nd Avenue at Noriega Street and 24th Avenue at Judah Street. Mar is also requesting records pertaining to the traffic engineering review of both of the intersections.

Records from the SFMTA show stop sign requests from constituents for the aforementioned intersections have been denied several times over the last four years with the SFMTA citing the safety record of the intersections as well as concerns of “degrading” Muni service along the corridors.

SFMTA Deputy spokesperson Stephen Chun said the agency has been working with Mar’s office to improve pedestrian safety improvements, including recent safety measures installed on the Lower Great Highway and Outer Sunset neighborhood over the last year:

During the pandemic, we have been able to move quickly to respond in partnership to what the supervisor told us was his top priority in D4, and we are also currently in the outreach phase for the Sunset Neighborways project, a district-wide effort to designate and design safe corridors for biking and walking.”

The measures were installed over the last year, including about 20 speed humps, four new stop signs and “enhanced SFPD enforcement,” Chun said.

In addition to Mar’s request for traffic engineering records pertaining to the three intersections, the supervisor wanted a description of SFMTA’s protocols following a traffic fatality as well as the metrics or criteria the SFMTA uses to approve a request for a four-way stop sign or signalized intersection.

Mar also wants data pertaining to the number of application traffic calming requests made by year and supervisorial district over the last five years, including how many were approved and denied by the agency.

The supervisor gave the SFMTA until Tuesday to respond to his letter.

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