Not too long after midnight last Monday, a man walking in the far-right lane of southbound North Oracle Road near Las Lomitas Road was struck first by a pickup and then by a minivan, both of which fled the scene.
The man died at the scene, the truck was later stopped by state troopers, and the minivan has yet to be found, according to information from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, which has jurisdiction on State Route 77.
While the exact circumstances of the wreck remain under investigation, the fatal hit-and-run was not the first in that area, which has seen “several” comparable incidents nearby in recent years, according to a May Regional Transportation Authority document. Those previous tragedies involved people trying to cross from a bus stop on the east side of Oracle to the west side.
“There’s no crosswalks, there’s no sidewalks in the area to speak of,” said Jim DeGrood of the Pima Association of Governments, of the area near Oracle’s intersection with Las Lomitas Road. “If you look at the east side of the road, you basically have the pavement edge and then you’re in the ditch.”
People are also reading…
Between 2007 and 2012, there were 13 pedestrian-involved collisions along the 1.95-mile section of Oracle between Roller Coaster and Ina roads. The two fatal incidents, as well as a third non-fatal incident, occurred within a few tenths of a mile of the most recent pedestrian death, according to a 2012 Arizona Department of Transportation-commissioned road safety assessment obtained by the Star. There were also six bicyclists hit along the nearly 2-mile stretch.
The assessment identified the roadway’s lack of continuous sidewalks as a key factor , noting that “the only walkways along Oracle Road are the paved shoulders,” which often abruptly end, leaving those on foot with few safe options.
“Typically, the only option for mobility-challenged pedestrians at these locations is to use the turn-lane,” the assessment reads.
The report went on to recommend sidewalk construction, continuous lighting and the installation of a HAWK pedestrian crossing beacon, among other things. In an October 2015 response , ADOT officials said plans were in the works for many of those recommendations.
Construction on the HAWK, which will be put in at the intersection of Oracle and Las Lomitas, is to begin within the next couple weeks, according to DeGrood. The RTA is overseeing the project, which includes bus-pullout improvements.
Likely starting sometime in fiscal year 2019, a much larger $12.4 million ADOT pavement preservation project from River Road to Calle Concordia will include sidewalk construction and new lighting. Contractor KAZ Construction Inc. put in the winning bid of $273,000.
“We recognize the importance of ... putting sidewalks in that area and safety for pedestrians,” ADOT’s Tom Herrmann told the Road Runner. “The number of accidents that involve pedestrians and bicyclists, everybody would like to see that number lower.”
DeGrood pointed out that it’s impossible to know if last week’s fatal hit-and-run wouldn’t have happened if the improvements had already been in place. Nevertheless, they will likely be welcome changes for Oracle pedestrians.
“Certainly we’re doing what we can right now to try and improve the safe of those people crossing the road,” he said,
DOWN THE ROAD
Three months of work to add landscaping, sidewalks and new streetlights along Scott Avenue between Pennington and Congress streets is underway. An underground gas line is being replaced, which will take an estimated six weeks. The stretch will be closed to southbound traffic, and northbound traffic will only be allowed to access the nearby parking garage and businesses.
Starting Monday, westbound Interstate 10 will be reduced to one lane east of Vail at milepost 285 to allow for the replacing of guardrails. The closures will be in place from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Thursday, during which time the speed limit will be reduced to 55 mph.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4235.