A pedestrian beacon is coming to Greenfield Road at the Western Powerline Trail next year after it was fast-tracked following the death of a teenager on the roadway.
It will still come nearly two years after 15-year-old Lauren Hutchins, a Gilbert High School sophomore, succumbed to her injuries a day after she was struck by a south-bound vehicle while pedaling her bicycle across Greenfield Road in September 2019.
The lighted pedestrian crossing is part of a larger project to connect the Powerline Trail between Greenfield Road and Val Vista Drive.
That study had been scheduled for Fiscal Year 2020-21 but was pushed up a year by Council in its Oct. 24, 2019 retreat.
“The crossing and the trail are currently under design,” said Kelsey Perry, a town spokeswoman. “Construction is anticipated to start in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2022 for the crossing of Greenfield Road, including the signal.”
Council took action a month after Lauren’s death and after a number of residents had contacted the town, asking it to address the safety at that location.
“I’m writing you in the hopes you can help fix a problem that in part took a life of a young girl,” wrote one man in an email. “A crosswalk/light is desperately needed on Greenfield Road between Guadalupe and Elliot. This is not the first time someone has been hit by a car.”
Lauren’s uncle and a cousin even pleaded for the Council to act, speaking at the Oct. 17 meeting in 2019.
“There are a lot of children trying to cross that road for a while now,” said Darin Houle, who brought his young son Max. “I’m here on behalf of the Hutchins family and everyone else to help protect future accidents where another child could be killed.
“If the city can’t afford it, I would gladly go buy paint,” Houle said. “If you’d provide me a police officer, I’ll paint a crosswalk there. I’ll help pay whatever it needs so that there’s no more future accidents.”
Lauren’s parents declined to comment on the story.
According to the town at the time, it was unaware of any previous such incident at that location.
Houle also has asked the town to consider naming the crossing after his niece.
“The town has been made aware of the naming suggestion and will have more information as the project progresses,” Perry said.
Police did not pursue criminal charges against the motorist, a 56-year-old woman who said she was driving 35 mph when the bicyclist appeared in front of her, according to the town. The posted speed limit for the four-lane road is 45 mph.
With media and public attention on the accident, Town Attorney Chris Payne in an email advised sticking with the town-released statement and against answering questions about the accident.
“There is a real potential for litigation against the Town due to the accident,” Payne said. “As a result, I recommend not answering questions about it.”
The family, however, never filed a claim against Gilbert, Perry said. There also is no court record of the family pursuing a case against the driver.
According to Perry, the crossing, which includes the signal, ADA-accessible pedestrian ramps, is estimated to cost $1.3 million. The trail itself is estimated to cost $2 million, she said.
The signal’s $344,483 cost will be covered by a Maricopa Association of Governments grant, according to town documents.
The crossing was ranked among the top 10 uncontrolled trail crossings in need of improvements by a consultant.
Perry said it was anticipated to go out to bid for the crossing between February to April and that construction, including the traffic signal, will take about eight months to complete.