The overpass would ensure safe passage for pedestrians, many of them UM students, crossing at the intersection of US 1 and Mariposa Court.
By Robert C. Jones Jr.
CORAL GABLES, Fla (April 23, 2015) —
University of Miami freshman Stephanie Scuotto sometimes crosses the intersection of US 1 and Mariposa Court to get to the CVS pharmacy or some of the retail shops at the University Centre strip mall. While Scuotto always uses and obeys the pedestrian signal at that intersection, she still knows it is a dangerous place to cross. Over the last ten years, eight UM students have been either seriously injured or killed in the area.
Soon, Scuotto and other students—as well as UM employees and citizens—will be able to cross the intersection without fear of being struck by a vehicle.
A decade after students began lobbying for a pedestrian bridge over US 1, University, government, and transportation officials gathered on Thursday for the ceremonial groundbreaking of the overpass that UM President Donna E. Shalala said will “ensure the well-being and safety of future generations.”
“It’s been a long and winding road to get here, but we all made it, and we made it together,” said Shalala, addressing an audience of about 100 people just outside Metrorail’s University Station.
The bridge, which is scheduled for completion in summer 2016, would reach from the University Station onto a redesigned Mariposa Court, the roadway that runs alongside the eastern boundary of the University Centre strip mall.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, a former county commissioner in the district where the bridge will be built, called the project “a giant step” in protecting the more than 1,300 people who cross the intersection everyday.
But the endeavor hasn’t come without obstacles, most notably trying to figure out where the bridge would land on the south side of US 1, said Ysela Llort, director of Miami-Dade Transit. When one plan fell through, City of Coral Gables commissioners unanimously agreed to transfer control of Mariposa Court to Miami-Dade County, paving the way for the bridge’s construction.
“That’s a testament to how important we believe this project is,” said Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason.
“Government works,” said Shalala, adding that it “took a village to get this project off the ground.”
She noted that the University is a major supporter of pubic transportation, subsidizing its workers to use county buses, Metrorail, and Tri-Rail through its Public Transportation Benefit Program. Many of those employees cross the intersection of US 1 and Mariposa to get to work, and the area could see even more pedestrians in the area when UM opens its Lennar Foundation Medical Center just across the street from the Metrorail University Station.
Shalala, who concludes her presidency at the end of this academic year, called the bridge “one of the single-most important issues” of her administration and praised UM administrators and students for helping to make it happen.
Thursday’s groundbreaking came almost ten years after UM freshman Ashley Kelly was struck and killed by a car while crossing US 1. The day after her death, the UM Student Government Senate passed the Ashley Kelly Resolution calling for the construction of a bridge at the intersection. In July 2013, Miami-Dade commissioners greenlighted the plan.
Outgoing Student Government President Alessandria San Roman, who praised the project, has been trying to make US 1 safer for pedestrians before she even became a UM student. Ten years ago, she was a seventh grader at Ponce de Leon Middle School when one of her classmates was killed while crossing the intersection of US 1 and Southwest 27th Avenue. After the tragedy, one of San Roman’s teachers gave her and other students a challenging homework assignment, tasking them with finding solutions to make the highway safer. “We thought of everything from education to installing fences,” San Roman said. “This bridge was desperately needed.”
Incoming SG President Brianna Hathaway said her administration will continue to work with government partners through the bridge’s completion. “Student safety,” said Hathaway, “is our primary goal.”
Said Scuotto, 19, “I’m sure I’ll be using it a lot when it’s completed.”
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