Friday, January 12, 2007

Officials commit to safety improvements on Hwy. 12

Excerpted from Daily Republic (Subscription required)
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By Barry Eberling and Audrey Wong

SUISUN CITY - Too many people have lost their lives on Highway 12 so Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, Solano Transportation Authority and other agencies are looking for short-term ways to make Highway 12 safer.

Wolk and other government officials announced their plans at a Wednesday press conference while Highway 12 traffic whizzed pass the Marina Shopping Center.

The officials said they would use legislation, law enforcement and road improvements to reduce the risks of traveling on the mostly rural east-west artery.

Head-on accidents have given the stretch from Suisun City through Rio Vista a "Blood Alley" reputation. Four people died in three collisions during 2006. From 2001 to 2005 there were two fatalities, 289 collisions and 163 injuries on westbound Highway 12, said California Highway Control Commander Sue Ward of CHP Solano. During the same period there were 16 fatalities, 329 injuries and 510 collisions on the eastbound portion, Ward said.

Some of Highway 12's casualities were local residents, acting Suisun City police Chief Ed Dadisho said. Two Suisun City brothers died in a November 2006 head-on collision and a Rio Vista police officer in a 2005 crash."It hits Suisun as well as Rio Vista," Dadisho said.

Wolk has been working with Caltrans to fast-track more than $46 million for highway improvements two years ahead of schedule. Plans call for widening shoulders, adding rumble strips and filling in dips on the hilly section. That project is to start in 2008 and be completed by 2010.

But everyone, including landowners, resource agencies and transportation agencies, must cooperate to make efforts work, Wolk added.

"While these safety enhancement will make the highway safer it does not address unsafe and hazardous driving," Wolk said.

The assemblywoman is sponsoring legislation that would highway a double-fine zone for such offenses as speeding and drunken driving. If the law is passed then officials would launch enhanced enforcement, public awareness campaigns and other measures to work with it.

CHP are collaborating with other law enforcement agencies for a task force that will crack down on dangerous motorists, Ward said. Highway patrol will fill positions to meet this goal.

Suisun City police will help by having officers work overtime to conduct drunken driving checkpoints and other enforcement, Dadisho said.

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