Drag Racer Kills Pedestrian on Deadly Alameda
A 58-year-old pedestrian was killed by a teen drag racer going around 60 miles per hour on W. Alameda Avenue — one of many known high-speed killing zones in the Mile High City that Mayor Hancock’s administration can’t get under control.
Joseph Fresquez, 58, who was crossing the street on foot, died the night of the crash, on June 28, according to the police report. The fatality is one of two traffic deaths within a several block radius of Alameda between South Sheridan Boulevard and Federal Boulevard in recent months, and in recent years many more have died on the area’s streets.
Despite the city’s Vision Zero goal to end all traffic fatalities by 2030, Fresquez’s death brought the city’s number of traffic fatalities this year to 37, up 28 percent compared to this point last year when drivers had killed 29 people.
The city could install inexpensive temporary traffic calming measures to slow traffic immediately. And any street where people can get up to 60 mph should be completely redesigned. The city has no immediate plans to do either, but they say they’re studying the problem.
“We are looking to make safety improvements along Alameda from Sheridan to Lipan (near I-25),” wrote Nancy Kuhn, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Works, in an email. “We’ll be pursuing the police report when the investigation is complete.”
But the police report was readily available: Streetsblog requested and received the report of Fresquez’s death and another nearby traffic fatality this morning, which a reporter passed along to Kuhn.
But how much study is needed when traffic moves so fast? Traffic fatalities are common in this mostly Latino neighborhood where wide, multi-lane streets, like Alameda, Sheridan and Federal, signal to drivers that it’s okay to drive faster than the speed limit. These streets are already known to be deadly, too. The city classifies them as part of Denver’s high-injury network, the five percent of streets where more than half of all traffic fatalities and serious injuries happen.
Without study, the street’s high-speed dangers are apparent to anyone who watches for a few minutes. This morning around 10:20, near the scene of Fresquez’s death, Streetsblog clocked a driver traveling at 53 mph between the homes and churches that line Alameda. The speed limit there is 35 mph. But in a 10 minute period, Streetsblog tracked four drivers traveling at 50 mph or more and packs of cars moving at 47 mph, 34 percent higher than the speed limit.
The Denver Police Department is considering increasing traffic and photo enforcement in the area. Until then, Doug Schepman, a spokesperson for the department, encouraged residents concerned about specific stretches of dangerously high-speed traffic to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Safety improvements to Alameda did not make the cut in the $937 million Elevate Denver general obligation bond, which voters passed in 2017. The city’s current study would help it seek federal funds for permanent changes to the streets in the area. But why doesn’t Public Works first install fast, low-cost traffic safety improvements, like adding new crosswalks and narrowing streets with paint and plastic posts?
“We have several initiatives in the works, which will be announced shortly,” said Kuhn. They “include installing more low-cost pedestrian safety treatments throughout the city, including on the high-injury network.”
Jill Locantore, WalkDenver’s Executive Director, who is normally aware of such improvements, said she had not heard about them.
Ahead of the runoff election in June, Streetsblog asked Mayor Hancock and his challenger, Jamie Giellis, if they would support a $6-million funding request proposed by the Denver Streets Partnership. The money would allow the city to install such safety treatments, but neither candidate committed to the idea then.
Fresquez’s family tied flowers and a cardboard cross to a light pole near the scene of the crash at Alameda and South Raleigh Street, where there is no crosswalk. “Love Dad, Justin,” they wrote on the pole with a marker.
Fresquez lived two blocks from the crash.
Just a few feet away, another homemade roadside memorial remembered a motorcyclist killed at the same intersection in 2016.
A few blocks away, at Alameda and Sheridan, a permanent memorial to Nabor Chavez asks drivers to “Please drive safely.” But the message was not heeded on May 23, when Tanya Martinez made a left turn there, hitting and killing Steven Gallegos, 51, who was riding a motorcycle.