I thought it might be helpful to share some information and thoughts with you about the direction that the traffic safety/traffic calming task force for the Willard/Bateman area seems to be going.
This task force has met some five times now since the large meetings that again revitalized the process around the time after the College Avenue repaving. The primary focus of the meetings has been to address the safety problems at Ashby and Benvenue - apparently the worst non- arterial intersection for accidents in Berkeley. However, during the discussions many other issues come up - mostly dealing with traffic in the neighborhoods or merchant concerns such as parking and related traffic flow.
People have been expressing concerns and meeting for years trying to get some improvement in the traffic situation in our area. Unfortunately, the traffic engineers have limited resources and seem to be essentially disabled when faced with modest levels of disagreement about potential solutions from citizens (residents, merchants, etc.).
The step that seems to be now going forward is something that appears to cause the least controversy while seeming to at least provide a plausible means to improve the safety situation. As a temporary measure (up to 9 months to get experience with it) Reh-Lin Chen has decided to put in islands to force right turns when entering Ashby from Benvenue, Hillegass, and likely Regent from the north (not yet fully decided). Since the majority of accidents at Benvenue and Ashby involve a car trying to cross Ashby, this would on the surface seem to cut out a major set of the collision accidents at that intersection. The thinking has been that a similar treatment for the other two intersections will stop cross traffic from just moving to them. You can see the basic idea of this approach in this diagram of the right turn only treatment(using Benvenue as an example).
Like any compromise, this approach doesn't really make anybody happy. I know that Paul Tuleja and others from the TACTC group have been pushing very hard to get partial barriers blocking the entry to Benvenue north - e.g. as seen in this diagram of the partial barrier treatment.
The TACTC group is also very concerned about right and left hand turns into Benvenue that tend to be accelerated by the Ashby traffic flow. This group circulated a petition and gathered some 60 signatures on a petition asking for such a partial barrier. Similar petitions were circulated on Regent and Florence streets. However, there was enough concern expressed by the merchants, people in Bateman and others (though I never heard any opposition from within the Willard area nearest Ashby) that Reh-Lin Chen felt he couldn't go forward with such an approach at this time.
In the most recent meeting of the task force it was pointed out that the right turn only treatment for Hillegass and Regent south of Ashby will force all the people on the streets closest to Ashby to turn right when leaving their neighborhood - even if they want to go west or north. They will then have little alternative if they want to go west (e.g. to downtown Berkeley) but to turn left into Benvenue - thereby increasing traffic into Benvenue. You may be able to get an idea what they are facing by looking at one of these maps of the current traffic treatments, e.g. this map of the Willard/Bateman area.
There has also been discussion of blocking Benvenue at Woolsey which would exacerbate this situation.
In the end, however, after seemingly endless discussion it was decided to try the forced right turn to make an effort to determine what its long term consequences actually would be. After the islands (and related signs) are put into place some traffic counts will be done to compare traffic on the various streets to what it is without the islands (e.g. counts that have been taken relatively recently). Also of course it will be possible to compare accident statistics. However, I expect the main feedback will be human from the people in the area - piping up at future meetings saying we like or don't like this or that about the effects of the islands.
More background information about this topic can be found on the TACTC Web site.
Sincerely, James E. [Jed] Donnelley http//www.webstart.com/jed/ for the TACTC group.Contact Jed Donnelley Jed Donnelley for communication about this Web page. I am willing to post changes to this page and/or additions to the TACTC site content - within reason. Last updated 1/15/02.