ANOKA, Minn. - The Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT)will soon launch a study looking into the safety of the Highway 10 corridor between Anoka and Ramsey, plans already in the works as a 16-year-old girl was killed while crossing the highway near Verndale Avenue in Anoka County Monday night.
Witnesses say Hannah Craft, of Ramsey, tried to cross at an uncontrolled stretch of Highway 10 when she was struck by a car traveling westbound, around 7:40 p.m.
Craft reportedly crossed the highway to get to her job at McDonald's, discovered she wasn't scheduled to work Monday night, and then was struck as she jogged back across the road to return home. The State Patrol says the driver of the car who struck Craft is a 39-year-old man from Mound.
Mn/DOT says the area has seen four fatal pedestrian accidents in a four mile stretch of Highway 10 between Anoka and Ramsey in the past four months. The agency will launch the study of the corridor in January 2013, and area that sees more than 40,000 motorists a day.
"What we are looking at, is there is access to the roadway that shouldn't be there with all these here driveways and roads that are not controlled for access? We provided safe signals for pedestrians to use, but at the same time, we want to make the roads safer for not only vehicles, but more pedestrian users as well, which includes bike users," said MnDOT Metropolitan District North Area Manager Wayne Norris.
Mn/DOT says a prior study was shelved, but when reexamining problem areas in the corridor this time, the agency must also consider responsibility of the pedestrians.
State officials say in all four recent pedestrian deaths, pedestrians didn't cross properly. Like Craft, one person wasn't in a crosswalk when she was hit back in August, and in September, the Minnesota State Patrol says a couple from Texas died when they crossed against a light at night. John and Jean Nettelfield were going back to their hotel after dinner. They died about a mile and a half away from where Craft was hit.
"This five mile stretch from Coon Rapids to Ramsey it's a busy highway, that seems to be a little unsafe," said Jeff Olson, a clerk who works at the Better Values liquor store right near where Craft died. "Over ten years, I have probably heard about a dozen accidents involving pedestrians. I think it could use an overpass for pedestrians but I don't think it will happen until the highway is improved though."
KARE 11 watched as Carl Demby, 23, waited more than two minutes before could dart across Highway 10 at Verndale, steps away from where 16-year-old Hannah Craft was killed.
"I am pretty sad about what happened," he said. "She used to come over here all the time and hang out with us. Pretty hard, bless her family."
Yet, Demby says even though it is dangerous, he'll still cross here, like many others in his neighborhood, because it's the most direct route between his home and stores. He hopes the state also considers foot traffic, and the final resting place of his friend.
"I think they should build an overpass to help people walk by, it's easier for pedestrians. The light is way down there," he pointed to the nearest crosswalk at a stoplight, roughly two blocks away.
Craft was a junior at Pines Alternative School in Lino Lakes. She died just two weeks short of her 17th birthday. The school director, Dr. Bonnie Thoms, describes her as a bubbly personality, and a student with artistic flair, working hard to get her grades up at the alternative high school, which focuses on individual learning. Dr. Thoms said the school will have crisis counselors on hand tomorrow.
McDonald's franchise owner Kris Genck said the restaurant employees are remembering Craft in their thoughts and prayers.
"We are fully cooperating with the Anoka County Police Department in their investigation into this tragic accident. As such, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further," said Genck.
Ramsey Mayor Bob Ramsey says he has long pushed a plan to reroute Highway 10 as part of a bridge interchange and overpass project that would separate traffic from pedestrians.
Ramsey says the $350 million bridge interchange would solve the safety issues at the intersection but has reached funding roadblocks. He vows continue to lobby for a new Highway 10, questioning priorities of lawmakers who funded a Vikings stadium after repeated fatalities in his area.
Anoka City Manager Tim Cruikshank says the city of Anoka is close to approval on its own plan on a grade separated road, a sort of "freeway" to protect pedestrians from traffic. Cruikshank says he's continually run into frustrations with a funding shortfall.
Mn/DOT says it has no specific timeline or plans on what exactly will happen after the study is complete.
The agency says it is working with Ramsey and Anoka County on an interchange at Armstrong Boulevard on Highway 10, which it fully supports should funding be approved.