Safer crossings may come out of tragedy
Ten years ago today, a 7-year-old girl named Arianna Macnamara was on a bicycle ride with her family. The party of six reached the intersection of 3rd Street NW and West Circle Drive, an intersection without a crosswalk or stop light. Three lanes of traffic came to a stop to allow her mother, father and two brothers to safely cross West Circle Dr.
Arianna and a family friend were nearly across the road when a car in the fourth lane, driven by a 26-year-old man, sped past the stopped cars. That vehicle didn't come to a stop until after it had struck Arianna and sent her flying 80 feet.
Arianna would die from her injuries later that day at St. Marys Hospital. The driver would be sentenced to 30 days in jail. The Macnamara family would eventually move to Florida. But the intersection where she received fatal injuries is largely the same today.
The only noticeable change is a "no crossing" sign and a placard informing pedestrians that the must backtrack to Country Club Rd. and cross there.
If the name sounds familiar, that's because it's printed on a brown sign below the 1,800-foot-long green metal-and-concrete pedestrian bridge that stretches across Highway 14. That span, officially called the Arianna Celeste Macnamara Memorial Bridge, provided a much-need safe connection between the Douglas Trail, Cascade Lake and the majority of the city's off-road bicycle infrastructure.
Now, council member Michael Wojcik, whose ward includes the site of the fatal collision, is spearheading an effort to build a pedestrian bridge across West Circle Drive. Such a span would provide a safe pedestrian crossing for residents of Country Club Manor, a neighborhood, which according to Wojcik, has a population equal to that of Stewartville.
"It's been 10 years and to this point the county has only had meetings," Wojcik told me in a recent interview.
The plan, which Wojcik published via his blog, calls for a pedestrian bridge just north of 3rd Street NW that would connect directly to Harriet Bishop Elementary. Currently, Harriet Bishop students who live east of West Circle Drive but are otherwise within walking distance are bused to school because no safe crossing exists. Protected bike lands, aka cycle tracks, would be added to portions of 7th Street and 36th Avenue NW.
No funding is currently slated for the project, but Wojcik cites sales tax dollars, Safe Routes to School funds, Transportations Alternatives Program funds and state bonding as possible sources.
The public is invited to an informational meeting on the proposed plan Thursday from 5 - 7 p.m. in Room 104 of the Government Center. After the meeting Wojcik will lead a bicycle ride to lay flowers at Arianna's memorial at Cascade Lake.
About Claire Walling: Claire is a contributing editor for the Med City Beat. She moved to Rochester two years ago from the Twin Cities after graduating from Hamline University. When she’s not working as a business writer she enjoys running the great trails around the region, designing and creating things, and drinking coffee. Fun fact: she was on a relay team that ran across Iowa in 54 hours. Twitter.
(Cover graphic: The Med City Beat)