CONCORD (KPIX 5) — Contra Costa County officials said they have begun a series of improvement projects along Kirker Pass Road, a popular cut-through connecting Concord to Pittsburg where six people have died in car crashes the past four years.
The road is a deadly combination of blind curves and high speeds. Along a mile-long stretch of Kirker Pass just north of the Concord Pavilion, there are no shoulders, so if a driver accidentally were to veer out of their lane and make an over correction, they could end up in a crash.
Early Sunday morning, Taleah Montanez, 18, died after losing control in the southbound lane and smashing into a signal pole. A family member told KPIX 5 that she was on the way to work just after midnight as a storm dumped rain in the area. Montanez was a manager at a retail store in Walnut Creek.
“Kirker Pass … is a high priority location given the fatalities that have occurred out there,” said Jenna Caldwell, a Senior Civil Engineer with Contra Costa County’s Public Works Department. Caldwell is also the construction manager for the Kirker Pass Northbound Truck Climbing Lane Project, which began work last week.
Since 2015, six people have died in car crashes along the stretch of Kirker Pass between Clearbrook and the other side of Hess Road. In 2018, a 5-year-old was killed in a crash that injured several others.
Workers are now in the process of adding a lane for trucks on the northbound side of Kirker Pass. Caldwell says they are also adding 8-foot-wide shoulders, even wider than the ones on Marsh Creek Road, the result of a recent improvement project. They will also install retaining walls like those from a recent project on Morgan Territory Road.
A project on the books for next year will improve lighting on Kirker Pass at Hess Road. Other improvements are in the planning stages.
“We are looking at installing speed feedback signs, reflective markers on the concrete median that’s currently on the road, and guardrails in spot locations to help prevent rollover type accidents,” Caldwell said.
Officials say the current improvement project is projected to be finished by the end of next year. Some of the other improvements are still waiting for funding before they can begin. Meanwhile, mourners continue to place roadside memorials on both sides of Kirker Pass.