More than two years after a student was violently struck down across the street from campus, Miami-Dade Transit met last Thursday to make architectural decisions for the long-awaited pedestrian bridge planned for the intersection of U.S. 1 and Mariposa Court.
Freshman Ashley Kelly was killed on April 11, 2005, when a driver ran a red light and hit her and her roommate. The roommate was treated for minor injuries, but Kelly died in the hospital that morning.
Soon after the accident, more than 500 students signed a petition for an overpass, in addition to rallying on the street for a pedestrian bridge.
In response, the university and Miami-Dade Transit formed the Pedestrian Safety Access Committee, which includes the UM Planning Department, the Florida Department of Transportation and the Coral Gables Police Department.
Immediate solutions included fencing off the sidewalk on the Metro Station side of the street and increasing visibility by trimming landscape. Still, the long-term goal was to build a pedestrian bridge, not just near the university, but at every Metro Station stop.
The initiative for an overpass originally began after an accident on Feb. 8, 1998 when a junior was killed on Ponce de Leon Boulevard. After Kelly’s death, Doug Honegan, a Student Government senator at the time of the accident and one of Kelly’s best friends, co-sponsored and passed a bill with Senator Peter Groverman, entitled “A Bill to Recommend the Construction of an Overpass Across U.S. 1 at the Location of Mariposa Court,” which was later named the Ashley Kelly Resolution.
At the meeting last Thursday, about 10 people from the community, including Coral Gables residents and a reporter from The Miami Herald, met with Miami-Dade Transit to discuss two design options for the pedestrian bridge. Both designs are at least 19 feet from the ground and include two large towers on both sides of U.S. 1. The two bridges also feature elevator shafts and large spiraling staircases with rails for people with bikes.
The only difference between the two proposed bridges is the architectural style. One design option is a Mediterranean-style bridge, which would reflect the Coral Gables and international community. The other option is modern style, which is similar to the architectural design of the university and nearby office spaces.
Construction is expected to be completed in 2010. President Donna E. Shalala said the university is working closely with Miami-Dade Transit to ensure this.
“I’m impatient for [the bridge] to get done,” Shalala said. “I don’t want to risk one more student. The faster they can do it, the better.”
Michelle Simmon, public involvement coordinator for Miami-Dade Transit, said the main purpose of the long-term bridge project is to encourage pedestrian safety while making the Coral Gables community more “walkable.” But she said Kelly’s death increased the urgency of building the University Station stop overpass.
“U.S. 1 is like a game of dare to cross,” Simmon said. “A livable community has to be a safe community.”
Simmon said the University Station pedestrian bridge design plans were first presented to the public on July 26. Last Thursday’s meeting had a low turnout in comparison, Simmon said, and Miami-Dade Transit is considering holding a private presentation for homeowners associations.
The pedestrian bridge will cost $5.4 million, which Miami-Dade Transit engineer Anthony Smith confirmed is being funded by surtax money from the People’s Transportation Plan as well as state funding. The City of Coral Gables is not contributing any money.
Raneir Pollard, who was the freshman senator at the time of Kelly’s death, said the bill for the bridge had been debated while he was in SG, but did not bring about change. He said he’s glad to see that the university is finally taking “a good step forward for students.”
“It shows that UM is looking out for the safety of its students and the environment,” Pollard said. “I’m happy to hear that [the plan] moved forward and was not lost in the dust.”
Rafael Sangiovanni may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related stories and past coverage
NEWS 4-15-05: Tragedy hits – Student hit by car dies Tuesday of injuries
OPINION: 4-15-05: The time for action is now
NEWS: 4-19-05: UM community celebrates life of Ashley Kelly in vigil
OPINION 4-22-05: Action, not blame
NEWS 4-26-05: Pedestrian overpass efforts move forward
NEWS 8-1-05: Tragedy sparks push for U.S. 1 pedestrian bridge
NEWS 8-30-05: New shuttle route aims to protect UM pedestrians
NEWS 9-23-05: Driver sentenced for U.S.1 pedestrian accident
OPINION: 9-23-05: Insufficient closure
NEWS 4-11-06: Plans still under way for overpass construction
OPINION 4-11-06: In loving memory of Ashley Kelly