As I walked to my car Sunday evening, I heard a cacophony of sirens. Traveling north on Ponce, beams of flashing red light penetrated the darkness near the Metro Station crosswalk. A familiar uneasiness consumed me. Two paramedics stood above a male victim securing him in a stretcher. A young man, seemingly the victim’s friend with whom he had been walking, turned his head away, looked towards the sky and clenched his hair.
Since 1990, five students have been struck by cars crossing the two major roadways near campus: Ponce de Leon Boulevard and U.S. 1. Three of the incidents were fatal, taking the lives of freshman Eric Adams in November 1990, a junior in February 1998 and freshman Ashley Kelly in April of 2005.
Three weeks ago, Miami-Dade Transit held a meeting in order to make architectural decisions regarding the construction of a pedestrian bridge planned for the intersection of U.S. 1 and Mariposa Court. Two design options are currently being debated, and construction is expected to be completed by 2010.
The initiative for an overpass began after the 1998 incident and was renewed following Kelly’s death in 2005 with the Ashley Kelly Resolution. It has been almost 10 years since the efforts commenced, and what does the university have to show for it? Nothing.
Two weeks ago, President Shalala was quoted in The Hurricane as saying she was “impatient for [the bridge]to get done. I don’t want to risk one more student.”
Well, President Shalala, the university is indeed putting students at risk if the overpass is not scheduled to be completed for another three years.
“U.S. 1 is like a game of dare to cross,” Michelle Simmon, public involvement coordinator for Miami-Dade Transit, told The Hurricane.
Why must students endure this grave danger for another three years? Why have they had to tolerate the peril for almost two decades after the first fatality?
In 1990, The Hurricane’s editorial staff challenged the university to “take whatever steps are in order to secure the safety of UM and Coral Gables residents.”
Has the university taken these steps? Have they done whatever it takes? It appears not.
The creation of crosswalks, longer traffic signals, directional signals, timers on crosswalks, trimming of the landscape and other half-hearted and ineffective efforts don’t cut it, as evidenced by Sunday’s accident.
Build the bridge and build it soon! Moreover, don’t limit the overpass to U.S. 1. Build a pedestrian bridge over Ponce where over half of the incidents have occurred. Also, if construction cannot feasibly be completed before the projected date, build a temporary, less aesthetically pleasing bridge in the meantime.
Crossing the street should not be such a dangerous endeavor, but it is. One of the only ways to remedy the problem will not be available to students for another three years. Students are being hit by cars and the university is not protecting them, or at least not yet.
What is the university waiting for? How many more lives must be lost? It is a question that has been posed by many students over the past 17 years, and it is about time that the university respond with legitimate action and haste.
Stephanie Genuardi is a sophomore majoring in English and journalism. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org