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Friend of walker killed on Kearney says footbridge, light are too far away

(KY3)
Published: May. 5, 2016 at 5:54 PM CDT
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One woman says she was lucky to walk away from the deadly car-pedestrian accident on West Kearney Street late Tuesday morning. Janie Wright was walking with Michelle McCown, the woman who was hit and killed.

Wright says she and McCown were walking from Janie's apartment, a few blocks south of Kearney Street on Clifton Avenue, to the Dollar General store on the north side of Kearney.

“She was just over here hanging out with me for the day,” Wright said on Thursday.

Little did they know it would be McCown's last day.

“I told her to watch out, because I saw him getting over there, and I told her to stay in this lane, the first lane, and she was, like, ‘We can make it.’ And I said, ‘No, we can't. He's speeding up faster,’ and, by that time, she was already there, and, bam, he hit her.

Wright can't get the tragic scene out of her head.

“If I wouldn't have jumped backwards, it would have been me, too,” she said.

Wright doesn't have a car and, like many in her neighborhood, has crossed busy five-lane Kearney many times, but only when necessary.

“If I can just stay on this side of the road and get what I need from that grocery store or that gas station, I do so,” said Wright.

Some wonder why pedestrians don’t use the footbridge over Kearney near Williams Elementary School, near Roosevelt Avenue just east of Race Brothers Farm Supply. We timed the walk time from the accident site to the bridge and back to the Dollar General store. It took nearly 12 minutes to avoid the dangerous area without a crosswalk where McCown was hit.

“It is quite a ways down there,” said Wright.

A stoplight is about a quarter mile west of the accident scene at Fulbright Avenue, but it has no pedestrian signals or crosswalk. The Missouri Department of Transportation, which is responsible for this road because it’s a highway, Missouri 744, says the Fulbright intersection is still where it would recommend pedestrians cross. MoDOT would be hesitant to put a mid-block crosswalk across a five-lane, 45 mile per hour road, a spokeswoman said.

MoDOT says it has not installed any mid-block crosswalks on highways in Springfield to date, but it does plan to install one with lights on North Glenstone Avenue (Business Route 65) between Kearney and Interstate 44. It just updated sidewalks along West Kearney area of the fatal crash, but has no plans for additional crosswalks.

Wright is now hesitant to cross at all.

“I haven't even really been up there walking since,” she said.

Police have not said how fast the driver, who lives in Willard, was going or if he was speeding. Police say he was cooperating with the investigation.