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Safety a concern on American Canyon's Highway 29, Napa County's southern gateway

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AmCan intersection

The busy intersection of Highway 29 and American Canyon Road is a local hot spot for collisions.

Highway 29 through American Canyon has been a rear-end hot spot over the last five years, and the city wants to end such unwanted bumper-car incidents.

The busy, four-lane highway — two lanes in each direction — runs for 3.5 miles through city limits. Along the way, it passes through five intersections with traffic signals.

From 2017 to 2021, the highway segment had 359 collisions. Of those, 219 were rear-end accidents.

“A lot of those were due to unsafe speeds,” Kathryn Kleinschmidt of the GHD consultancy said.

American Canyon is working on a local roadway safety plan that is scheduled to go before the City Council on Aug. 16 for approval. The Planning Commission recently received a preview.

Although the plan looks at all roads and streets in the city, this Highway 29 segment is of special interest for Napa County as a whole. It is a county gateway to the larger Bay Area.

Highway 29 in American Canyon had more than rear-end accidents. Other types included 52 broadsides, 31 sideswipes, 23 hit objects and 19 head-ons. There were two fatal crashes, 10 with serious injuries and 28 with lesser injuries, as well as 197 cases of property damage only.

Planning Commissioner Eric Altman described a pet peeve: a short left-turn lane from northbound Highway 29 onto American Canyon Road. That probably leads to rear-end collisions, he said.

The reason is Highway 29 drivers are “stacked up and stuck behind vehicles in the left lane waiting to get into that turn lane, and they can’t because it’s just not long enough,” he said.

It should be simple to break the curb around the dirt median and extend the left-turn lane, said Altman.

Planning Commissioner Andrew Goff sees another Highway 29 safety problem.

“People decide the far right shoulder is now an express lane on Highway 29 and they just flare off to the right and away they go,” he said. “Somebody’s going to get hurt really bad with that because they’re moving. I mean, they’re going 50, 60 mph just to get around some of those cars at stoplights.”

The public also got its say. People left 245 anonymous comments for various locations on an online map posted by the city for its roadway safety plan.

“We need multiple radar-sensored speed signs that flash at you when you go over the speed limit along the 29,” one commenter said. “The long downhill slope moving northbound is a good place for (police) to nab speeders with radar guns, but it'd be nice if they didn't have to.”

That's a recommendation in the draft roadway safety plan. Kleinschmidt said such signs can make drivers aware of the speed limit.

The plan also calls for improving traffic signal timing along Highway 29 and having pedestrian "walk" signals start a few seconds ahead of the green light for vehicles, so walkers can establish themselves in the crosswalk.

Some American Canyon residents are frustrated that some rush-hour Highway 29 drivers take to residential streets to try to save time.

“Theresa Avenue is ‘officially’ the alternate Route 29,” one wrote. “The traffic, especially during commute hours, is horrendous. As a 45-year resident of American Canyon, having always lived on Theresa Avenue, I have witnessed dramatic traffic changes, both on our street and in our city.”

Another described what happens near Los Altos Place.

“This is a favorite cut-through road to avoid 29 traffic, and I also take it,” the commenter said. “However, I generally have other vehicles riding my bumper as I go the proper speed navigating the bendy road. And then when they hit the intersection they want to turn on, they blow through the stop sign to get around me.”

Still another said the way to stop these residential street detours is to fix Highway 29.

“This road needs to be expanded and have overpasses and pedestrian walkovers to make it safe and flow better,” the commenter said.

People also commented on streets all over American Canyon. For example, Goff takes early morning walks. He complained of drivers on West American Canyon Road who either ignore or don’t see the stop signs and drive right through without even slowing down.

The road safety plan is required of communities to receive certain grants to help build road safety projects. Go to https://bit.ly/3d3lQlh to see the American Canyon plan.

A crane stacks modular units for the Lemos Pointe apartments at the Watson Ranch development in American Canyon.

You can reach Barry Eberling at 707-256-2253 or beberling@napanews.com

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