MIAMI (CBS4) – University of Miami students are going to be able to go out for pizza – without risking their lives.  Miami-Dade commissioners Tuesday greenlighted a plan to build a pedestrian walkway over a piece of South Dixie highway, where over the years eight UM students have been injured or killed trying to cross the street.

Students wept and hugged each other in April of 2005 when Ashley Kelly, a straight A student aspiring to be an environmentalist, became the third to die, attempting to cross U.S. 1 at Mariposa Court.  A crosswalk with a red light at the intersection leads to popular eateries on the East side of the highway across from campus.  Since 1989, five students have been seriously injured in addition to those killed.

It is a stretch of the highway where drivers all too often drive all too fast.

Miami-Dade’s commission Tuesday, with the encouragement of UM President Donna Shalala, took formal possession of a piece of Mariposa Court from the city of Coral Gables, paving the way for the pedestrian bridge project to get underway.

“A pedestrian overpass will enhance the safety of the students greatly – and the teachers, because some of the administrators and teachers have offices on the other side of U.S. 1,” said Commissioner Xavier Suarez, who sponsored the measure that passed unanimously.

The overpass was a long time coming.  UM students held protest rallies, carried on petition drives, called news conferences and refused to let the issue drop off the radar of government and transportation officials.

One obstacle was erected by the owners of the shopping center across the street, worried the overpass construction and location might disrupt business.  Those worries were overcome and students will be able to walk safely over the highway.  The overpass will be constructed using mostly state and federal funds.

UM’s student body President Bhumi Patel called the go-ahead for the overpass welcomed and overdue.

“We’ve had eight students severely injured or killed, and it would have saved lives and injuries and heartaches, but it’s nice that we’re getting it now and will save lives in the future,” Patel said.

In the future, students and others won’t have to race the crosswalk countdown clock, run for their lives to cross the street.

The $6 million skybridge is expected to be completed in the spring of 2015, 25 years after the first UM student was killed at the site.


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