Auto-Pedestrian Crash Sparks Concern Over Lack of Sidewalks
BROWNSVILLE - A woman run over in Brownsville last week on Highway 48 died Monday morning.
Brownsville police identified her as 29-year-old Janet Jimenez Ramirez.
Her 2-year-old son, Yahel Cruz, died Thursday shortly after they were both hit by a driver that veered off the road.
Yudelka Gutierrez, Ramirez's best friend, can't fathom how she'll overcome what happened. She was walking right beside the mother and son, along the shoulder lane of the road.
"All of a sudden, I heard a hit. I just heard the hit," Gutierrez said. "That’s when I saw the little boy fell on the concrete, and Janet fell further in front."
The three had just gotten off a city bus at the stop on McKenzie Road, she said.
Instead of walking home down McKenzie, they decided to walk the opposite way along the shoulder lane to a nearby store, Gutierrez said.
They thought they were safe, she said.
"There's a part there that's dirt and grass," Gutierrez said. "There's another part there that's for bicycles and people walking, that's away from the street. There's a white line and there's space there still, so we believed that we could walk on there, because that's why it's there."
Cameron County Pct. 2 City Commissioner Jessica Tetreau said when she got word about the fatal accident in her precinct, she called the Texas Department of Transportation looking for answers. The state took over the highway about 13 years ago, she added.
TxDOT invested money in fixing the corridor for commerce, since it connects the Port of Brownsville and Mexico, Tetreau said. But it didn't invest in constructing sidewalks along this stretch of the road.
"People have to walk on the shoulder because once you get to the grass, it becomes a very dangerous ditch," Tetreau said. "And you have people walking in the ditch because they are scared."
Tetreau said in the past few years, the city has invested over $1 million building sidewalks along McKenzie Road.
It's a heavily populated area, including many children that walk to the nearby middle school, she mentioned. But the city cannot build sidewalks on Highway 48 because it's not in their jurisdiction.
"They said within the next 12 months, they are looking at redesigning it. They are in the current phase of re-planning all of that," Tetreau said. "They understood it was a need. They've always tried to do this, but because of funding and other issues, they get tangled up and things don't get fixed."
The commissioner said that for a more immediate change, she'll propose moving the bus stop to McKenzie Road, where people have a sidewalk to stand on.
A TxDOT spokesman in Austin is working to provide CHANNEL 5 NEWS with more information on the plans to build sidewalks on Highway 48.
Gutierrez, a mother of four, volunteered to care of her best friend's six children, while it's determined where they will live permanently.
The Brownsville Independent School District, New Harvest Ministries and community members throughout the city are coming together to help the family.
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