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SFMTA plan to make West Portal Station safer gets some pushback

Over a month after a crash at San Francisco’s West Portal Transit Station killed a family of four, the SFMTA has been getting input from residents and business owners about a plan to make the hub safer. 

But the proposal is getting resistance from some business owners. 

There’s a new addition to the scenery at the intersection of West Portal Avenue and Ulloa Streets, where Muni trains, buses, cars and pedestrians converge daily. 

It’s a series of posters taped to light poles and business fronts, calling for residents to “Save West Portal.” 

The concern? SFMTA’s proposal to make changes to the busy intersection intended to make it safer for pedestrians. 

“The concern is that the changes are coming through without actually sitting down with the community to work through, like, ‘what is our goal? These are our ideas. Like, do you have any constructive criticism?’ ” said Karl Aguilar, the partial owner of Papenhousen Hardware Store. 

The store is just a few doors down from the intersection. 

Many business owners and residents have been talking with the SFMTA about traffic safety in the neighborhood for years, according to Aguilar. He believes those involved agree with about 80% of the proposed changes. 

But he — as well as other business owners who spoke with NBC Bay Area — say this proposal seems rushed. 

“I think this intersection is being looked at unfairly and, I think, opportunistically due to the tragedy that happened here on March 16,” said Matt Boschetto, a candidate for District 7 supervisor. 

He said some residents believe changes to the intersection could negatively affect other nearby intersections. 

The draft proposal from the SFMTA would restrict most private vehicles from entering the intersection. Drivers would have to make right turns directing them away. A pedestrian plaza would be built in the Horseshoe Area near the train platforms, where the SFMTA trucks now park. 

The fatal crash is one of the reasons why something is being done quickly, according to District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar. 

“Because of the tragedy, we want to make sure that people outside of West Portal and inside West Portal understand that we will act to make the community safer,” Melgar said. “And it’s not going to take us five years to do something that we know works.”

The SFMTA has been hosting listening sessions for residents and business owners for the proposed changes. The next one is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at the Ulloa Street Library. 

Melgar said those sessions have been helpful, and that she’s looking forward to the SFMTA adding some of the suggestions that they’ve already heard. 

Charges against the driver in the March 16 crash have not been filed, and no timeline for a charging decision has been made.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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