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Traffic Nightmares: Marin Avenue at Colusa Avenue

"Traffic Nightmares" is a series based on readers' feedback about the worst spots to drive and park in Berkeley.

An artery from neighborhoods to schools and shopping, Marin Avenue is an important road — and one people travel in a hurry, creating a speeding problem the city has already tried to solve.

From Marin Avenue, pedestrians and drivers can turn onto Colusa Avenue and head north past , to more stores on Solano Avenue.

On a recent afternoon, vehicles honked and zipped past each other at turns and heading their four separate ways at the wide intersection of Marin and Colusa with a diamond-shape of bold white crosswalks.

Why it's one of the worst

Berkeley Patch reader of traffic on Marin at Colusa: "I saw a woman nearly get run over this morning at the corner of Marin and Colusa. Drivers zoom up Marin to that light, and take a right turn on Colusa without ever stopping. And this is not the first time I've seen a close call at that intersection."

Speeding is a problem neighbors to the intersection have witnessed, and experienced the bad fruit of, for years. 

"I've had a car drive up on the sidewalk here and run into the tree," said Sarah Poh, gesturing to her front yard. "He took off — I think he was OK."

Charlotte Fisher, an EMT who walks through the area, said she isn't concerned for herself when she crosses Marin at Colusa, but for someone else. "I can run pretty fast, but I live with an elderly guy and I take care of him," she said. "He goes on walks here, and I worry about him."

"There have been a lot of accidents," said Patricia Mader, who's lived at the intersection for 10 years. "I feel like people come down the hill and don't know how fast they're going."

A woman died after being struck in the crosswalk at the intersection a few years ago, she recalled. The woman was 61-year-old Sandra Graber, killed on December 31, 2007, according to an article from the Berkeley Voice.

Mader said the city, aware of the problem, completed an extensive traffic calming project on the street about five years ago, limiting the amount of traffic on the street and slowing its speed, so residents thought. Marin had been a four lane road, with two lanes in each direction, but became a two lane road. "I don't know what else they could do," Mader said.

Instead of looking to the city to do more, she thinks a police presence could help. "I don't see police at the intersection," she said. "They could come any time of the day and get someone [for speeding] if they wanted to."

What the city says

Farid Javandel, the transportation manager for the City of Berkeley, said Marin Avenue has already been put on a "road diet." 

"Marin Ave was previously two lanes in each direction, and a parking lane on one side," he said. "It created a problem where traffic wasn't so smooth. It didn't provide for bicycle access and it wasn't pedestrian friendly."

Javandel said a left turn lane was added to the middle of the road and the street was adjusted to leave room for a bike lane, to remove some driving impediments. "It averages out speed of traffic," he said.

A 2006 Contra Costa Times article about the changes said that a transportation engineering group monitored the average traffic speed on the redesigned Marin Avenue and found it dropped from 30 miles per hour to 27 miles per hour — still, however, above the posted speed of 25 miles per hour for the residential area shared by Berkeley and Albany, as well as pre-K and elementary schools.

How to avoid the nightmare

Going to Solano Avenue from Downtown Berkeley or the hills? Take The Alameda, or Sutter Street or another street to the traffic circle to get there and limit your time driving in residential areas. Sonoma Avenue is another route to Bright Star Montessori and Marin Elementary schools. From West Berkeley, San Pablo Avenue is the straightest shot to Solano and to the schools at the Albany end of Marin Avenue.

To share your own Berkeley "traffic nightmare," visit our .

Suzan Kaufmann September 02, 2011 at 01:09 AM
There is already a traffic light - just change the timing, or put up a sign saying "No turn on red" for west-bound on Marin drivers. A similar sign seems to have worked well at the corner of Santa Fe and Marin.
jjohannson September 02, 2011 at 08:45 PM
Parking enforcement, a unit of the BPD, should be redeployed as traffic control to problem intersections during school and rush hours. They would much better serve the community in this capacity than as parking ticket issuers. If community safety is a primary charge of the police department, than it should concern itself with moving violations rather than non-moving violations.

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