"It's faster and easier to drive on Black than on Valley," said Anthony Davito, who lives on Black and Ridgewood. "It would help to change the stop signs to stop lights on Valley."
Valley Avenue between Santa Rita and Hopyard roads is four lanes, with sound walls protecting the neighborhoods. Black Avenue is parallel to Valley, with only two lanes.
Davito noted that the traffic worsened when drivers were no longer allowed to turn left out of the Safeway parking lot onto Valley Avenue. And the regional swim meets tie up all the streets in the neighborhood with parked cars, he added.
"During swim meets it's difficult to get cars out of the driveway," he said. "I don't understand why they can't have them park at Amador Valley High School."
Black Avenue has a lot of traffic volume but not a lot of high speeds, explained Traffic Engineer Mike Tessano, which is why it has not been chosen for improvements to address traffic concerns; the annual budget for such measures has been lowered from $100,000 to $25,000, he said.
Nonetheless, recognizing the problems in the neighborhood, city officials decided to begin the process for traffic calming by receiving input from residents and discussing what might help.
"It's critical to have behind-the-scenes residents working," Tassano said. "We require buy-in right up front. I'd like you tonight to tell me what the problems are."
Solutions might entail median islands; small traffic circles similar to planters in the middle of intersections; speed bumps; median islands; more radar speed signs; flashing pedestrian walkways; chokers or bump-outs.
"Each item does have its pros and cons," Tassaso said.
He said in a later interview that the city began to prohibit left turn lanes out of the Safeway shopping center onto Valley for safety reasons in summer 2011.
"People crashed there once a month," he said.
The neighbors also complained about vehicles traveling well over the speed limit.
One man said postal trucks speed down Black Avenue in the early morning as well as Wheels buses, warning that it was a dangerous mix with five schools, two preschools and the aquatics center. The post office on the corner and the medical office buildings also draw vehicles, residents noted.
Eric Helmgren, who said his front porch on Black Avenue and Greenwood is "the most awesome people-watching corner in the city," said he saw children almost get killed at the intersection of Black and Tanglewood and said it needs a stop sign.
"One out of 10 make a complete stop at Black and Greenwood," he said. "Kids from the high school are on their phones, doing 40 mph."
A woman who has lived on Harvest Road for 45 years said the crossing guards did a good job keeping the children safe near the schools but "the parents are belligerent." Having police near the schools on opening day helped a lot, she added.
One suggestion to slow traffic was to have the crossing guard stationed up the street rather than at the corner. Another suggested they take turns being serving as additional crossing guards.
Stanley Freidus said the street needs a police presence.
"Even just a cop car," he said. "I'd hate to see any bumps."
"Why can't we force the traffic back onto Valley?" someone asked.
"We can't," Tassano answered. "Thus the traffic calming."
That section of Valley Avenue has two stop signs, as does the same stretch of Black Avenue, Tassano said later. Signals are in the city's general plan for Valley Avenue but are not in the short-term vision, due to the installation cost of $250,000 in addition to a monthly maintenance cost, he said.
Tassano is currently reviewing the names of residents who volunteered to be on a neighborhood committee to develop a traffic calming plan, which will have to be approved by 50% of the residents.
To be added to list to receive further information about the Black Avenue traffic calming efforts, telephone Tassano at 931-5670 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.