There is a point at which preposterous public policy becomes profoundly personal.
For example: We have reason to deliver a first grader to Flowery Elementary School each weekday morning. The entrance to Flowery is at the intersection of Highway 12 and Mountain Avenue, and at 8:20 a.m., Monday through Friday, there is a bumper-to-bumper vehicular procession alternately starting and stopping as the traffic light switches from red to green and back again. A lot of those vehicles are rushing to drop kids off at Flowery.
It’s a two-lane road and there is no sidewalk along that portion of Highway 12. But there is the semblance of a turning lane as you approach Mountain Avenue from the north and motorists delivering students tend to creep into that semi-lane in order to make the right-hand turn down to the school. Sometimes the view of this marginal lane is obscured by the bulk of a truck or large SUV so that the driver of a smaller car trying to slip into the lane and thus closer to the corner, while through traffic remains stalled, can’t see ahead to know if the lane is clear.
On more than one occasion, we have seen cars trying this move only to encounter baby strollers approaching them head-on. On one of those encounters, we were one of those drivers and we found ourselves bumper-to-baby carriage with a mother of three – one in the carriage and two more under-4-year-olds on either side. They were inches from southbound traffic and a few feet from our front fender, and if we had not been going slowly and carefully, they could have ended up under the car.
That young family was technically walking in the street, because there was nowhere else to walk.
It would not surprise us if sooner or later, someone rushing to deliver a child to Flowery before the classroom bell rings has a similar encounter but is unable to stop in time.
The crush of humanity swarming through that intersection each morning represents an accident waiting to happen. And the more time passes, the more the law of averages has its way. It is impossible to overstate the pedestrian danger on that stretch of Highway 12.
But the State of California has told Sonoma County it doesn’t care. The state Department of Finance has informed the county that, “Finance is not allowed to make decisions on the basis of economic viability, public safety or any other socioeconomic factors.”
In other words, even though the County of Sonoma has purchased rights-of-way, has waited for the undergrounding of phone and power lines, and has dutifully followed the protocols of Caltrans, a state bureaucracy has ruled there is no “enforceable obligation” allowing the county to use redevelopment bond money, already collected, to finish a sidewalk improvement project already half done and decades in the making, that could and should be well into its final phase of construction.
So the Springs Highway 12 project is stalled, while the county sues the state and simultaneously scrapes an empty budget barrel for some spare change.
And meanwhile, every school day morning, small children in the Springs run a gauntlet that, sooner or later, may very well kill someone.
We are beyond outrage.