By: Sophia Hernandez | WCTV Eyewitness News
February 12, 2020
After an FSU sophomore was hit and killed by a vehicle trying to cross West Tennessee Street, students say the crosswalk is not safe.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Experts say it could take years for safety improvements to come to the scene of a deadly pedestrian crash in Tallahassee.
Florida State student Natalie Nickchen was killed when a driver hit her in a crosswalk on West Tennessee Street. Since that incident, more than 16,000 people have signed a petition asking for a pedestrian bridge or tunnel.
The FSU Senate was supposed to propose its resolution for either the bridge or tunnel to a committee on Wednesday, but that has been pushed to February 19.
Allan Franklin, the Director of Pre-Construction of Culpepper Construction, says he understands students fears.
"It is almost impossible to walk across that street and not feel that you are not in danger," he says.
Franklin has been working in construction for more than 30 years. He says that while projects like this have been done, it can take between 12 and 18 months just to plan, and another 12 to 18 months until the ground can be broken.
"Highway 90, or Tennessee Street, is a state road so you have to involve the Florida Department of Transportation in the design and permitting of it, you also have to deal with the right of way issues," Franklin says. "You would have to deal with private land owners."
Franklin also says that any project would need to follow standards of FDOT, the city and Florida State; that would all come prior to any funding needs, permits, design and the hiring of a contractor.
He also mentions that this would be an undertaking unlike any other in Tallahassee. The Cascades bridge cost about $7.2 million and was funded by FDOT, who funded $1.4 million, and the BluePrint Agency, who provided $5.8 million from sales tax money.
It took about 15 months to build.
Godby High's bridge in Leon County was built back in 1991, when Ocala Road expanded from two lanes to four. It cost about $268,000. It was funded by the school district and was created to be solely used by students and the school, as it connects the school with their practice fields.
Franklin says a bridge on West Tennessee Street would likely be most similar to the one off of Conner Boulevard. It was funded by the Piney Z Community Development District and the city back in 1998.
It was created to connect a safe crosswalk from Lincoln High School and Tom Brown Park. WCTV was not able to verify the exact amount paid by each party, but the estimated cost was $498,000.
Franklin says it's a process that could take up to two years, at the earliest, and the bridge could cost anywhere between $5 and $7 million.
While the students who created the petition are open to either a tunnel or bridge, Franklin says one option is easier than the other.
"Bridge would probably be the easiest and fastest thing to get built, but disregarding all the other factors, it might be more expensive than a tunnel," he says.
However, Franklin also says that it really comes down to the standards of the state, city, and most importantly, Florida State, and whether they deem the bridge as an amenity or necessity.
"I think it is a safety issue and convenience issue for the university and I think that will come more into play rather than how many people are going to use it at any given time," he said.
FSU President John Thrasher says more needs to be done for the safety of the students and faculty. He also says he has reached out to state and local authorities, as well as FDOT, about this matter.
"We need to figure out some ways to make it safer in our campus and around our campus particularly," he says. "We have 42,000 students and 10,000 staff and faculty, and we have a lot of traffic that goes around our campus, we all need to be more vigilant frankly."
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