Plans still under way for overpass construction

April 11 marks one year since UM freshman Ashley Kelly was killed by a motorist at the crosswalk at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Mariposa Court. At the time of the accident, impassioned students across campus gathered to demand the construction of an overpass at the site, and one year later plans are still under way to get the project off the ground.

After the accident last April, President Donna E. Shalala organized a working group on campus led by Janet L. Gavarrete, campus planner for real estate and construction, and Sarah N. Artecona, assistant vice president of media and community relations. The working group asked to be put together with representatives from the City of Coral Gables, Miami-Dade Transit Authority and the Florida Department of Transportation since all three entities have regulated efforts in and around the intersection where the proposed overpass would be constructed.

The group has been meeting since last April to discuss possible short-term and long-term solutions to pedestrian safety in that section of U.S. 1. Since the intersection is part of a state road and not located within the UM campus, the university does not have the authority to implement roadway improvements. However, representatives of the group have been meeting with the proper authorities to provide advice and recommendations for improvement based on their knowledge of student pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the area.

Although the overpass is still in the planning stage of development, Artecona said that there have been improvements made to the intersection in order to facilitate pedestrian safety. Immediate solutions to the problem include the construction of the green wrought iron gate along U.S. 1, which serves to funnel pedestrian traffic to the crosswalk and prevent jaywalking.

“We hope that some time this fall that gate will be extended to South Alhambra Circle because [the university is] moving 800 students into the University Village and [the university wants] to make sure traffic patterns are funneled in the right direction,” Artecona said.

Anthony Smith, project manager for the Miami-Dade Transit Authority, said that a conceptual study of the intersection in question has recently been completed and that the group is in the process of getting a final design consultant on board in order to begin the design process of the plan.

Smith estimated that the project would probably be completed in about 2009 and that the cost for it would range between $5 million and $5.5 million. Until then, Smith said the committee is working on implementing further short-term solutions, including better lighting in the area and a widened median to be used as a refuge for pedestrians. They also plan to trim the trees to make traffic signs more visible and construct a bus pull-out bay on Mariposa Court to keep the transit buses from blocking traffic on U.S. 1.

“When you’re dealing with a pedestrian overpass you can’t just put it up overnight,” Smith said. “But in the meantime, something can be done, which is why the [Pedestrian Safety Improvement Committee] was set up to evaluate solutions on a more immediate level.”

Some students are satisfied with the university’s involvement with the committee but feel that the timeline may be too long to answer for Kelly’s death.

“I mean, it’s great to see that they are making an effort, but by 2009 there aren’t going to be students left who were [at UM] when the accident happened,” Rachel Johnson, a senior, said.

When completed, the overpass will likely eliminate all pedestrian traffic across U.S. 1 by routing it over the roadway. Until then, Artecona advises students to be aware of their own safety on the roads near and around campus by being conscientious drivers and pedestrians.

See page 8 for a tribute to Kelly.

Marina Nazir can be contacted at