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Collision-prone intersection in Santa Maria to become four-way stop following fatal car crash

Collision-prone intersection in Santa Maria to become four-way stop following fatal car crash

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Following a fatal collision that left an elderly woman dead in April, the city of Santa Maria is moving to turn an intersection that has been the frequent site of car crashes into a four-way stop.

In April, 83-year-old Judith Zimmer was driving an Acura sedan through the intersection of Union Valley Parkway and California Boulevard when a pickup truck collided into her vehicle.

Zimmer was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency responders. Two men also were injured in the collision.

Following the crash, city officials examined the intersection at the far south end of Santa Maria and determined it now warrants a four-way stop, said Public Works Director Kevin McCune.

As it sits, the intersection features stop signs only for those traveling north or south on California Boulevard.

While reviewing current traffic volume and past collisions at the intersection, city staff found five broadside collisions occurred at the intersection between Feb. 4, 2017, and Jan. 18, 2018.

Broadside collisions — or when a vehicle crashes head-on into the side of another vehicle — can potentially be corrected with the installation of a four-way stop, according to a staff report on the new signs prepared by the Public Works Department.

On Dec. 17, the City Council voted unanimously to approve the new four-way stop. The item was on the council’s consent calendar and approved without any discussion.

One member of the public, Scott Fina, wrote a letter to the council expressing support for installing stop signs on Union Valley Parkway. 

Fina said he crosses Union Valley Parkway multiple times each week as a pedestrian and vehicles either speed by or voluntarily stop to allow him to cross. 

"Both of these occurrences are dangerous for pedestrians and vehicles," he wrote."

McCune said the city’s in-house staff will install the additional signs by the end of January. The labor and materials will cost around $3,000.

The intersection, which was originally planned as a four-way stop, has been the subject of scrutiny over safety concerns since its construction in 2013, according to the staff report.

In 2014, a Santa Barbara County civil grand jury issued a report calling for the city to install a four-way stop, finding that the intersection created hazards, especially for motorists traveling north on California.

At the time, the city declined to install stop signs on Union Valley Parkway, saying a four-way stop was not warranted at the intersection.

Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.  Follow him on Twitter @razisyed

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City Government

Razi Syed covers city government for the Santa Maria Times. He is a graduate of Fresno State University and New York University.

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