MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An accident that seriously hurt two middle school girls is spurring major changes in an Anoka County town.
It happened in November on Highway 47 and Pederson Street in St. Francis on a crosswalk right outside St. Francis Middle School. It’s a crosswalk that crosses over a busy four-lane highway — a crosswalk dozens of students use daily.
Kaia Bollman and her friend Annie Lamotte were crossing when a car hit them, injuring them both. Kaia was the most severe, spending 30 days in ICU.
“It’s probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through,” said Barb Kelley, Kaia’s grandmother. “We didn’t know at the time if she was going to even survive.”
She did survive. The ninth grader is still fighting hard against a brain injury, and she’s fighting hard for a safer crosswalk.
“I know the pain that it put me through and I don’t want other people to suffer the pain that I went through,” Kaia said.
And change has already begun. The intersection used to only have flashing lights, but now it has a stoplight system.
While Barb says traffic lights are a huge improvement, she says it’s still very frightening knowing students are standing or crossing in the middle of the roadway.
“We want more. We want to see a separation of the people who are walking and the vehicles,” Barb said.
And that’s what Melissa Barnes is working on. The Minnesota Department of Transportation project manager hosted an open forum on how to improve the Highway 47 corridor.
“We are taking this seriously. We are concerned about safety. We are here working with the city and working with the county and the whole community really,” Melissa Barnes said.
Kaia and Barb looked on as MNDOT proposed options like a roundabout, or raising the highway and making a tunnel. Their goal is to have a plan by 2020.
Kaia also has a plan.
“Have people not look at me as the girl who got hit by the car. I want people to look at me that I’m the girl people look up to,” Kaia said.
The plan is for MNDOT and the city of St. Francis to share the cost of the new project. Click here for more information.