State grant to improve safety near East Bay school

Source: Written by Paul Hegarty with Bay Area News Group

LAFAYETTE — Following the death of a crossing guard outside Stanley Middle School and increased awareness of the need to promote traffic safety, Lafayette officials have secured state money to design a path for students to make their way to Acalanes High School — an action that residents have asked for years.

When it’s done, the new pathway will provide people with a safe way to walk or bicycle around the school, especially during commute times, supporters say.

State Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, a Democrat whose district includes Lafayette, announced that $238,000 was coming from the state to start the design of the route to the school at1200 Pleasant Hill Road.

The school has about 1,350 students, most of whom live in Lafayette or in nearby Moraga, Orinda, Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek, according to its website.

“On behalf of the Lafayette community, we are very grateful to Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan for helping to secure $238,000 in state funds to take the preliminary proposal concepts for the safe route to Acalanes project and prepare design plans and environmental documents for this project on an important corridor in our city,” Mayor Susan Candell said in a statement.

The project will create a path for pedestrians and cyclists down the middle of Pleasant Hill Road, using an existing center median, so that people can more safely cross the street near Highway 24.

Among those who welcomed the announcement was Eric Law, a Lafayette father who has been campaigning for years to get a safe bike route to Acalanes High via Pleasant Hill Road.

Still, some residents are frustrated that the effort to begin the design has taken so long.

“A safe route to Acalanes is a great innovative project,” Jessica Liebermann, a Stanley Middle School parent, said in a text. “But I am concerned that given the city’s poor track record, that it will never get built.”

No date was announced as to when the design will start.

About 36,000 vehicles travel along Pleasant Hill Road each day, according to the city.

The new path will provide a pedestrian and bikeway to better reach the high school via Pleasant Hill Road, plus it will connect with the East Bay Regional Park District’s Lafayette-Moraga Regional Trail.

Pleasant Hill Road is a four-lane, north-south roadway that connects Highway 24 with Interstate 680.

The speed limit ranges between 35 and 40 miles per hour. Currently, students — who might be walking or cycling — need to cross the road amid speeding vehicles making their way to and from the ramps for Highway 24, posing a safety risk as they make their way to the high school.

“The Acalanes Union High School District supports improving safe routes to school for our students,” Kristin Connelly, a school board member, said in a statement. “This new funding will help explore this new route to Acalanes High School that has exciting potential to allow more students to bike safely to campus.”

In September, 45-year-old crossing guard Ashley Dias died after a motorist struck him as he worked outside Stanley Middle School — an accident that has pushed some parents to call for more traffic safety measures around schools.

In August, the City Council approved installing speed humps, cutting back plants and painting curbs red near some intersections close to Burton Valley Elementary School to slow down vehicles and to help motorists see better while making turns as part of an overall effort to boost traffic safety.