On a Thursday afternoon in January of 2012, 16-year-old Sacramento resident Michelle Murigi was struck by a car while she crossed the intersection of 58th Street and Fruitridge Road in South Sacramento. She was returning from West Campus, her high school, after providing a tutoring session at a nearby elementary school. The first car on the two-lane road stopped and let her cross at the crosswalk, but a second car in the other lane didn’t stop. She was taken to the hospital and passed away the next day.
For over a decade this crosswalk has been identified as extremely dangerous and being poorly constructed. It has been on the list of intersections that need reconstruction due to the hazards of Fruitridge road where the average vehicle speed is 40 to 50 miles per hour. Every year in Sacramento, at the direction of the city’s transportation department, a new traffic signal is installed at a dangerous intersection.
Mary Murigi, Michelle’s mom, and area residents got together and demanded change. They partnered with WALKSacramento, an organization dedicated to creating walkable communities, and together they hosted community forums to hear from community members. They they also conducted “walk audits” to find out what other intersections in their neighborhood needed fixing.
Other area organizations followed that lead and also helped residents get organized by showing them how to become effective advocates.
Even still, city officials said it could have been over 25 years before a traffic signal could be put at 58th Street and Fruitridge Road. Residents continued to advocate and even started a petition that received over 1,000 signatures which asked for action to be taken so future accidents could be prevented.
On February 11th, 2014, more than two years after Murigi’s tragic death, the contract to build the streetlight was awarded to a construction firm by city council. The city and the Sacramento City Unified School District are splitting the cost of the traffic signal.
Terry Preston, Complete Streets Coordinator at WALKSacramento, spent considerable time working on this project.
” It’s a testament to what can happen when the community, including youth, come together to make a strong and informed argument for pedestrian safety,” said Preston.
Preston believes this is only the beginning of the work that needs to be done.
“There is much more work to be done to make the Fruitridge corridor safe for walkers and bicyclists of all ages, and WALKSacramento looks forward to the continued effort,” he says.
The traffic signal construction is set to start in late February and is due to be completed by April.