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18 April 2013

Overpass plan gains steam

The city of Coral Gables and Miami-Dade County are working out a deal to build the pedestrian bridge across U.S. 1.

This bridge will not involve the University Centre, a strip-mall located across from the university. The owners of the center refused to accept Miami-Dade County’s $1.8 million offer to make up for the five parking spaces they would have lost to build the bridge’s landing area.

Eight UM students have been killed or seriously injured since 1989 at that intersection, prompting current students, administration and community members to help bring the project to fruition.

The overpass, if built, will provide pedestrians an alternative, safer way to cross the intersection. The bridge will land in Mariposa Court.

In an interview with The Miami Herald, Albert Hernandez, explained the plan. Hernandez serves as the assistant director of engineering, planning and development for Miami-Dade Transit.

“If you take a look at Mariposa, there is one inbound lane from U.S. 1 and an exclusive left- and right-turn lanes. The idea would be to make the exclusive left and right lanes into one lane that would serve dual purpose right and left — and keep the inbound lane. This would essentially reduce the section from three to two lanes, giving us room to put the tower from the bridge into the public right-of-way,” he said to The Miami Herald.

The county and the city of Coral Gables seem to endorse the plan.

Student Government (SG) President Bhumi Patel expressed her sentiments on the step forward.

“It looks like the project could be moving forward, and we will continue working hard with the university and the community to make sure that it happens because it is something we are all passionate about,” Patel said.

On Friday, SG held a press conference at the future site of the overpass to announce the addition of 2,000 signatures on a petition to build the bridge.

Ashley Kelly was one of the students who lost their lives at the overpass. Friday marked the  eighth anniversary of her death, after she was hit by a vehicle.

Pat Whitely, vice president for student affairs, invited Kelly’s parents to attend the rally.

“Ashley’s parents decided it was too painful for them [to attend] but they allowed us to use her picture. Ashley did not die in vain,” Whitely said in an article reported to The Miami Herald.

Whitely spoke about the overpass’s current status.

“I am extremely excited and cautiously optimistic that the overpass will become a reality for our students and our community,” she said. “We will continue working over the summer to hopefully bring this design into reality … we’re very heartened and excited, and we continue to thank the Student Government and the county and the mayor’s office and all the folks that have worked together.”