Death resulted by walking facility removed from Blossom Hill Road bridge

Most info on this crossing is now on the expanded Blossom Hill Road crossing web page with three photo series.

Akos Szoboszlay, President, Modern Transit Society. (December 2005)

Photo: Blossom Hill Road has illegal sign at bridge prohibiting pedestrians and bicyclists, thus forcing them to cross the railroad and Monterey Highway at grade. A walking region is easily and cheaply created by several methods, such as clearing shrubs and painting shoulder lines for walkers and bicyclists.

The Mercury News has ignored the bigger story about the Blossom Hill Road fatality. Hatton, the baby-sitter of the toddler who was killed as they were crossing the railroad, was apparently going along Blossom Hill Road as described in the Mercury News article [12/10/05]: "She planned to take the light rail from her house on Blossom Hill Road [but due to change in plans] headed down the sidewalk of the busy Blossom Hill Road." The bigger story is that if Hatton would have just kept going along Blossom Hill Road by using the existing Blossom Hill Road bridge --thus crossing above both the railroad and the 50 mph Monterey Highway-- the fatality would have been prevented. She did not do that because of San Jose's repeated roadway design failure, including recent elimination of pedestrian/bicycle facilities on that bridge, and its signs banning walkers, as described here:

1) the pedestrian/bicycle facility was recently eliminated by the City on the south side of the bridge to create another traffic lane. You can still see the remnant of the shoulder line. Shoulders are recognized to be pedestrian and bicycle facilities where alternatives are lacking. Hatton would have had to walk in the traffic lane with the kids, as a result. Hatton may have been safer crossing the tracks than walking the kids in the traffic lane where the cars merge from Cottle Road onto the bridge. On the north side, there are missing gaps in the shoulder facility for walkers.

2) there are several signs stating "PEDESTRIANS ... PROHIBITED" and "NO TRESPASSING ...". Because she went that way 5 or 6 times previously (according to Mercury News interview), she must have seen these. The later signs were recently posted by San Jose staff and prevent walkers from using the dirt paths and dirt sidewalks to get to the bridge.

The real culprit in the fatality is the City of San Jose. A suitable title would have been "Death resulted by walking facility removed from bridge." You can verify the shoulder line was removed by looking at the SW corner of the structure, after the merge from Cottle, on the concrete (not the asphalt, which was probably re-surfaced or slurry-sealed). The faded remnant of the shoulder line still remains. You can also verify that by calling SJ DOT.

I even warned SJ DOT about this two years ago in a letter (which I now uploaded to the web). I also described how to make the bridge safe at almost no cost, by painting lines and/or placing bumpers. Here is our 2003 letter:

Here is a quote of my 2003 letter to the City:
"The alternative [to using the bridge] today is to walk across the RR tracks with no signaling or whistle blowing. A similar situation on Monterey & Capitol about two years ago resulted in a ped getting killed by a train and the County settling the lawsuit. As a result, Dan Collen [County Roads Department] put in a sidewalk on the bridge."

Walkers try to walk in the safest reasonable manner possible. A one-mile detour is no more reasonable than asking a car driver on a freeway to drive 20 miles out of the way for no logical reason. That is because what counts is travel time, and a one-mile detour for walkers is the same as 20 miles for motorists.

The situation has actually gotten more dangerous in recent years by the City eliminating the shoulder, and posting "NO TRESPASSING" signs. Here is our recent emailed letter to Council member Forrest Williams, which has more details:

Councilmember Williams replied that he referred our letter to San Jose DOT staff.


Katrina Hatton Case Network

Google aerial map (then click "street" or "hybrid" for street names)

More about Blossom Hill Road bridge at our Safety topics, links page.

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