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February 16, 2017

SAC targets safety at Fifth/Bellefield intersection


The Staff Association Council (SAC) hopes 2017 will be the year in which the intersection of Fifth and Bellefield avenues becomes safer for pedestrians.

At the end of January, SAC upped its campaign, based on staff complaints about the intersection, to bring University and Oakland stakeholders together to press for crosswalk improvements. It is seeking meetings with multiple Oakland improvement and watchdog groups, and sending Alex Toner, chair of SAC’s external relations committee, to those groups’ public meetings to drum up support for the effort.

SAC hopes that together the groups can petition the city to:
• install a crossing signal that lets pedestrians cross Fifth Avenue for 20-25 seconds before vehicles get the green light to turn from Bellefield onto Fifth; and
• ban right turns on red for vehicles turning onto Fifth from North Bellefield. (Vehicles on South Bellefield already are prohibited from making a right turn on red.)

SAC also is urging the City of Pittsburgh, which controls the intersection, to continue its public forums concerning Bus Rapid Transit planning and the city’s Complete Streets project, to address broader concerns about vehicle/pedestrian interactions in Oakland.

SAC sent its Jan. 27 letter about the intersection to the chancellor, provost, the Community and Governmental Relations office, and to city officials and several Oakland organizations, including Oakland Business Improvement District, Oakland Planning and Development Corporation, Oakland Transportation Management Association and the Bellefield Area Citizens Association.

Toner says numerous incidents of vehicles striking walkers, wheelchair users and bicyclists prompted the action.

Stakeholders, including Pitt, he says, “are aware of the lingering hazard it poses to anybody crossing there. We are hoping we can build a coalition of like-minded individuals and organizations in the city to create a strong call to action to implement some of the safety improvements we are seeking.”

As a result of teaming with Oakland organizations — if they’re amenable — to push for intersection improvements, “there might be other concerns raised,” Toner says, and other solutions proposed, such as repainting the crosswalks to be more visible, or putting in new lighting to make road signs more obvious.

There certainly are other intersections with problems, he allows, and SAC may in the future aim for the proposed coalition to target other road improvements. “However, the persistent and relevant staff concerns that have been raised to us have made [Fifth and Bellefield] a priority at this time,” he says.

“We very much want to work with all stakeholders involved in this,” he says of the current effort, “to try to reach a desirable outcome for everyone … where the safety of everyone using that intersection is addressed and enhanced.”

—Marty Levine

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