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UM Student Gov’t Pumps Up Pressure To Build Lifesaving Bridge

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(Courtesy: Miami-Dade County)

(Courtesy: Miami-Dade County)

Lauren-Pastrana-600x450 Lauren Pastrana
Lauren Pastrana joined CBS Miami in April 2012 as a reporter. Sh...
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CORAL GABLES, Fla. (CBSMiami) – Eight years after the death of a University of Miami student, the school’s Student Government is still pushing for a pedestrian bridge to be built at the intersection where she was killed.

Ashley Kelly died of injuries sustained after being struck by a vehicle while crossing US 1 at Mariposa Court.

“She was an amazing student, just a freshman with her whole life ahead of her,” current UM Student Government President Bhumi Patel said Friday.

There’s a plaque on campus in Kelly’s honor, but a plan to build the overpass in her name remains on hold.

Miami-Dade County and the City of Coral Gables have approved the $6.2 million project.

The funding is available through several federal, state and local sources, but the space is not.

“In order to build the bridge, in the original plan, there’s an anchor that would be necessary at University Centre,” UM Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Pat Whitely told CBS 4’s Lauren Pastrana.

The county would need to acquire five parking spots and some green space from the University Centre, a popular shopping plaza directly across from the University of Miami Campus.

“The county has offered a very very good amount of money, $1.85 million and the University Centre operator has decided not to sell,” Whitely explained.

In a statement to CBS 4 News, an attorney for the shopping plaza explained University Centre’s position.

“We sincerely believe a pedestrian bridge is not the best solution to the issue of pedestrian safety on this stretch of Dixie Highway,” attorney Amy Brigham Boulris wrote. “The public resources available should be devoted to installing street level pedestrian crossings with industry standard lighting and other current technologies, at more than one location.”

Students argue the Mariposa Court location makes the most sense, because of its proximity to restaurants, the Metrorail station and other conveniences.

But in the statement, the attorney for the shopping center disagreed.

“If a bridge were to be installed, it should be more centrally located to serve all these pedestrian groups, not just the university, though the university would be well served by a different location, too,” she wrote.

Albert Hernandez, assistant director of engineering, planning and development for Miami-Dade Transit, said the county is now looking into another option which would reduce Mariposa Court from three lanes to two in order to make room for the bridge.

The alternative plan might reduce the budget for the project by about $1.3 million, Hernandez said, but those plans have not been finalized by the city of Coral Gables or the Federal Transit Administration.

A majority of the funding for the project, roughly $4 million, is coming from the federal government.

Some of the $1 million in state funding will come from a Florida Department of Transportation grant which is set to expire at the end of June.

Hernandez said it’s possible that timeframe could be extended.

Students are rallying behind the project, primarily because they say they don’t feel safe crossing US 1.

“It is insane. It’s absolutely dangerous,” junior Mike Piacentino said. “You can see right now how many cars are crossing the street and red lights don’t really mean much in Miami.”

According to a University of Miami press release, eight students have been struck while crossing US 1 near Mariposa Court since 1989.

Eric Adams died in 1990 and Aaron Barber passed away after an accident in 1998.

Most recently, in April 2012, freshman Eliza Gresh was critically hurt in a hit and run crash in the same area.

“I’ve heard of a lot of people getting hurt,” freshman Grace Roskar said. “So it would be nice to have an alternative that’s a lot safer.”

An online petition has been created in support of the pedestrian bridge.

As of Friday night, more than 2,300 people had signed it.

To view the change.org petition, click here.

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