Amid emotional pleas from family members of a Los Altos woman killed crossing El Monte Avenue at Marich Way two years ago, the Mountain View City Council last week approved a host of traffic improvements at the intersection.
Perhaps the most notable of the upgrades earning unanimous council support was the proposal to eliminate the northern crosswalk at the intersection. It was at this crosswalk where pedestrian Michelle Montalvo was fatally hit by a car in October 2015.
Other aspects of the selected “Alternative 2” plan include installation of flashing beacons to alert drivers to pedestrians, installation of a 6-foot-wide median to create a “pedestrian refuge area” at the south leg of the intersection, a radar speed sign and relocation of signage currently in the north median to improve visibility.
The new improvements supplement those already implemented at the intersection over the past two years, including enhanced crosswalk striping and additional street lighting.
Last week’s council vote went against the January recommendation of the city’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), which suggested maintaining the northern crosswalk.
“We need to encourage people to walk whenever possible,” resident Patrick Moore told the council.
He supported BPAC’s rationale.
“When you reduce (the crosswalk), you also reduce visibility,” Moore said. “We need to make drivers more aware of the pedestrians. We need more crosswalks – removing a crossing goes in the wrong direction – it discourages walking.”
But councilmembers and several speakers at the meeting agreed with the city staff recommendation that removing the northern crosswalk would improve safety.
“One of our main concerns with the crosswalk is the left-turn conflict with vehicles turning left from Marich onto El Monte,” said Michael Fuller, the city’s public works director.
The northern crosswalk’s removal, Fuller added, focuses drivers’ attention on the remaining southern crosswalk.
Montalvo’s father and sister both spoke passionately in favor of removing the crosswalk.
“The cons (to removing it) seem a bit ridiculous about inconveniencing (pedestrians) – it’s about safety,” said Montalvo’s sister Delia Moyles, who was crossing with Montalvo when she was hit.
Moyles thanked the city for making the intersection project a priority.
“People are still behaving badly in that very unique, crazy intersection,” she said.
Montalvo’s father, Martin, said the two crosswalks, 50 meters apart, “confuse the drivers.”
Fuller noted that city staff plans to conduct a study next year of the entire El Monte corridor – from the Springer Road intersection to El Camino Real – to reach an overarching solution for what some have called a “racetrack.”
“I’m really glad we’re going to be looking at the corridor next year, because that’s the long-term thing we need to do,” Councilwoman Pat Showalter said. “This is the short term.”
Mayor Ken Rosenberg added: “Our condolences again to the Montalvo family. I hope this eases some of the burden from that tragedy.”