Caltrans and local transportation planners are working together on a project originally proposed in the Vision Sonora Plan that’s aimed at improving pedestrian safety along Washington Street in downtown Sonora.

A public workshop is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday on the second floor of City Hall, at 94 N. Washington St., to present the proposed options and get a sense on what the community would like to see happen with the city’s main thoroughfare.

The project targets the stretch of Washington Street between the Red Church and Stockton Road, where a number of accidents involving pedestrians being hit by vehicles have occurred over the years.

A draft of the proposal shows an aerial view of Washington Street with over a dozen improvements, including pedestrian controlled signals, bollards, crosswalk lights that would flash when triggered, and additional street lighting.

There are also options for aesthetic changes, such as decorative concrete, landscaping, parklets, and benches.

“This is an opportunity for the public to create a design that is consistent with what they want to see,” said Darin Grossi, director of the Tuolumne County Transportation Council.

Grossi said planners will take the information gathered from the meeting, refine the proposal with Caltrans, do cost estimates, and then seek approval from the Sonora City Council next year to submit an application for funding from the state.

Ideas like parklets along Washington Street received a mixed reception when the Vision Sonora Plan was approved by the council in December 2013 because of the possible loss of parking spaces.

Grossi said people who attend the meeting will be given stickers to place next to their preferred options.

This is not to be confused with three other Vision Sonora transportation projects in the downtown area also in the works.

The $1.2 million “Stockton-Washington Beautification and Transit Project” is focused on making sidewalk improvements and installing a bus stop either on Washington Street between Church Street and Stockton Road, or along Stockton Road between Washington and Green streets.

The city is moving forward with the environmental analysis on that project and will seek proposals from consultants for final design and engineering later.

In April, the city submitted a request for nearly $6 million from the billions of dollars available in state cap-and-trade revenues to complete the “Stockton Road - West Gateway Project.”

The project proposed planting trees, installing bicycle paths and making various pedestrian safety improvements along Stockton Road from Green Street to past the Mother Lode Fairgrounds, a stretch where two pedestrians have died over the past two years after being struck by vehicles.

Grossi said the request was denied because the so-called “Urban Greening Grant” was more geared toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions as opposed to improving public safety, with most of the $76 million that was available being divvied out to bigger cities.

“We knew it was a long shot, but we’ll keep trying,” Grossi said. “There’s no doubt there are safety needs, particularly at the fairgrounds.”

Another project that will reconfigure the intersection in front of the Red Church has received $722,000 from the state after the Sonora City Council approved an environmental analysis amid strong opposition from the public in late October.

Those opposed felt that the concept for the project as presented in the Vision Sonora Plan would cause more harm than good to traffic and safety, but city leaders say the final design will be developed with public input over the next year.

Grossi said they hope to avoid the same kind of pushback against the proposed Washington Street improvements by gathering public input on a design before submitting an application for funding from the state.

“I think everybody’s anxious for improved public safety while also retaining the historic character of downtown,” Grossi said. “That’s the needle we’ll have to thread.”

The workshop is being held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. to give downtown merchants an opportunity to provide input before they open their stores and others who may be at work that day to stop by during their lunch break, Grossi said.

There will also be a meeting of the Vision Sonora Committee at 9 a.m. in City Hall where Grossi and design consultants are expected to give a presentation on the project.

Several high-profile accidents involving vehicles striking pedestrians have occurred along the particular stretch of Washington Street over the past year.

In June, a 10-year-old boy suffered a injury to his left foot that required surgery after being struck by a Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office Community Services truck while crossing Washington Street at Stockton Road on his bicycle.

A 23-year-old woman and her 1-year-old son were hit by an SUV while crossing at Washington and Jackson streets, resulting in both being transported to an out-of-county hospital for treatment of “moderate to severe” injuries.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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