From 2001 to 2010, according to a city commissioned traffic study, eight pedestrians were struck by vehicles while crossing El Cajon Boulevard at Kansas Street in North Park. In 2012 the intersection was named the most dangerous on El Cajon Boulevard, west of Interstate 15. More recently, in September 2016, 67-year-old Kebede Abera Tura, a leader in the Ethiopian community, was struck and killed in the intersection after finishing his nightly coffee at the Awash Market.
Yet, despite the string of pedestrian versus auto collisions, according to public documents obtained by the Reader, city traffic engineers don't feel the intersection merits a traffic signal. City engineers are currently evaluating whether to install a lighted crosswalk for pedestrians.
In a May 25, 2017 email, San Diego traffic engineer Matthew Schmidt found that the intersection did not "satisfy any of the warrants outlined in the [California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices].
As a result, wrote Schmidt, the city does "not recommend the installation of a traffic signal at this time."
Members of the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association have spent years pleading with traffic engineers to examine the intersection at Kansas Street. But recent attempts to obtain funding for pedestrian improvements, says the association's community development coordinator, Steve Aldana, have been unsuccessful.
"We've been working with councilmember Chris Ward to try to get funding added to the city's budget for the Kansas St. improvements," Aldana writes in a June 26 email. "We don't think this actually happened, so we are trying other sources."
Adds Aldana, "Pedestrians cross El Cajon Boulevard regardless if it’s legal or not. The city commonly falls back on the same theory that it's illegal, so people should not be crossing there. We feel that the increased pedestrian activity is dictating a crossing should be installed. Years ago, when requesting an analysis for crosswalk installation at various intersections along El Cajon Boulevard, including Kansas Street, we kept running into a problem with the city denying our request for evaluation since they were not legal crossings. Legal or not, people are crossing. In the case of Mr. Tura, it ended tragically."
And while traffic engineers continue to study the need for pedestrian improvements, attorneys for the city will likely be reviewing the matter in court.
On March 17, 2017, according to documents obtained through a public records request, Tura's family filed a claim against the city for wrongful death, estimating $3 million in damages. The claim is a precursor to a lawsuit.
In the claim, an attorney for Tura's family says the city was well aware of the dangers at the intersection but failed to act on complaints and previous pedestrian collisions.
"The City of San Diego knew of the hazards of this intersection as to pedestrians being struck and injured, including fatalities, but did not take any measures to warn traffic of crossing pedestrians, or slow down traffic, or employ 'calming measures.'"
It is unknown whether the claim was rejected.
Kathleen Ferrier, policy and communications director for Vision Zero Network, a group whose goal is to eliminate traffic fatalities such as Abera's has advocated for pedestrian improvements at El Cajon Boulevard and Kansas Street. She says the city's traffic department needs to adapt to the changing environment.
"The challenge is that El Cajon Boulevard historically served as a highway to move cars. But it is a commercial corridor, now home to San Diego's Bus Rapid Transit line, and a growing number of new local businesses and residential developments. As a result, more people are walking and bicycling to shops and restaurants.The street design needs to be modernized to improve safety, and to keep up with current demand."