Polk residents want sidewalks installed after 2 pedestrians kill - WFLA News Channel 8

Polk residents want sidewalks installed after 2 pedestrians killed

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Two teens have died while walking along Old Dixie Highway between Lakeland and Auburndale. Two teens have died while walking along Old Dixie Highway between Lakeland and Auburndale.
Two teens have died while walking along Old Dixie Highway between Lakeland and Auburndale. Two teens have died while walking along Old Dixie Highway between Lakeland and Auburndale.
Two teens have died while walking along Old Dixie Highway between Lakeland and Auburndale. Two teens have died while walking along Old Dixie Highway between Lakeland and Auburndale.
James Hayton thinks homeowners should donate part of their land for a sidewalk. James Hayton thinks homeowners should donate part of their land for a sidewalk.
POLK COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Some Polk County residents fear that if sidewalks are not installed, more people are going to die while walking along Old Dixie Highway.

But, Polk County officials say the project is costly and complicated and may have to wait.

Two teens have died while walking along Old Dixie Highway between Lakeland and Auburndale in the past five years. While thousands of residents have signed a petition to get sidewalks put in, some people who live along Old Dixie Highway are not willing to help make it happen.

James Hayton is in a state of shock. He does not understand why people who see the dangers along the roadway each day won't give up part of their land for a sidewalk.

“Donate the property,” Hayton suggests.

He's passionate about the proposed project because just last August he witnessed the moment when 17-year-old Enrique Hernandez was struck and killed while walking to school.

Hayton says it was a tragedy that broke hearts and should have raised awareness about the danger that still exists today. “I saw three people walking up here today- a car almost hit them,” Hayton said.

Months after the deadly accident, the county says the sidewalk project could be a long time coming.

“We'll eat this elephant one bite at a time,” Deputy County Manager Bill Beasley said.

The roadway is now split into three sections. Two of those are bordered by homes and some homeowners aren't willing to donate land to make a sidewalk installation simple.

Beasley said there are many challenges that make it costly, “Now I've got to move that sidewalk closer to the road and I've got to put a curb and gutter around a rural road.”

But, Hayton says the answer should be easy when it comes to safety.

“There have been two deaths out there and I’d like to say we're very sensitive to that and I'm not here to presuppose what judgment should be made on that call,” Beasley said. “I have a limited amount of resources and we have a significant number of needs.”

A second section of the roadway is not bordered with homes and has been approved for a sidewalk. Plans are for the sidewalk to be installed by the end of the year.

As for the rest of the road, it all depends on where it stacks up against other county sidewalk projects, as far as priority and cost. Beasley said some of the other roadways in the proposals have had fatalities as well.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.


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