Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Town of Oro Valley Faces Three Lawsuits In St. Patrick's Day Tragedy (Part 2)

An independent engineer's report sees inherent danger to pedestrians and bicyclists in the vicinity of the W Naranja Drive park entrance
There is a report* that was filed with the lawsuits, authored by an independent professional engineer. The report asserts that roadway design of W Naranja Drive is inherently dangerous for pedestrians.  The engineer concluded that, "The road design ignored the needs of pedestrians at the intersection with the park entrance," especially those of children.  The report makes three main assertions

Assertion 1: Pedestrians must wait too long to cross the road safely
“During the noon hour of pedestrian would have to wait slightly longer than two minutes for an 18 second gap in traffic across Naranja Drive, " according to the report.  The report suggests that this timing gap is needed for pedestrians to safely cross a road in which cars are traveling at least 45mph. This waiting time is quite lengthy, especially considering that people, and especially children, are generally not patient enough to wait for two minutes to cross any road."

Assertion 2: The shared turn bicycle lane does not permit safe pedestrian travel
The road design is such that there is a shared turn-bicycle lane on the north side of the street. It is unsafe for pedestrians to use it, even though that would have been the only way to face oncoming traffic, as required by law.

Assertion 3: The Bicycle lane in which girls walked is too narrow to meet County standard
"The bicycle lane [in which the girls were forced to navigate] is only 5 feet wide. The Pima County Roadway Design Manual specifies a bicycle lane width of 6 feet." According to the report, those using this lane face "...a serious risk."

Report conclusion: Pedestrians obeyed the law, but the road design did not meet standards
“In my opinion, the three pedestrians were complying with Arizona law and acting prudently when hit by the vehicle. To walk facing traffic they would have had to cross Naranja Dr at Guava Dr. and walk eastbound in the westbound shared right turn lane and bike lane. This would be feasible in a bike lane but not a shared right turn lane bike lane. The intersection of Guava Dr and Naranja Dr is uncontrolled for Naranja Drive traffic and the vehicles travel at a high speed. It would have been difficult to cross the uncontrolled high speed intersection. They would have to wait more than two minutes for an 18 second gap in traffic. A recent study indicated pedestrians at uncontrolled intersections under estimate the speed of approaching traffic 70% of the time. It was not practicable for the three young women to walk facing traffic.

The road design ignored the needs of pedestrians at the intersection with the park entrance. Children walking to and from the park should be considered in the intersection design. There was no safe way to exit Guava Dr and walk eastbound on Naranja Drive. Additionally, several references indicate it is dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians to travel in an unbuffered or unseparated bicycle lane on a high speed road."
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The Council met in Executive Session to discuss the lawsuits on October 4.  Executive Sessions are not open to the public. We suspect it will take some time for these suits to be resolved. We will inform you as we learn more. 
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*The information for this article comes from a preliminary report of Louis Rubenstein PE, F.ITE dated September 8, 2023. The plaintiffs in this case submitted this report in support of their assertions of liability. LOVE has not confirmed nor do we intend to confirm any of the representations made in this report.