In March, a 20-year-old Delran woman became the 18th pedestrian to die on Route 130 in Burlington County since 2007. Christal Smith, 20, was hit by a motorist who ran a red light as she walked to her job at a nearby supermarket in the early morning hours.
Since then, 1,900 people have signed an online petition requesting the state erect a pedestrian overpass near the spot where she was hit.
"Twenty years earlier, a 13 year old girl was killed in the same exact place. This bridge could save lives. Please, let's make the deaths stop," the petition on Change.org says.
The six-lane highway has been named one of the top most deadly roads in the state for the past three years.
On Monday, state Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa came to Delran, accompanied by other state officials, to launch an operation to improve safety on the road. The $225,000 initiative will increase patrols on the road and crack down on traffic violations over the next 18 months.
But there are no plans for an overpass. Anthony Attansio, an assistant commisioner with the state Department of Transportation who attended, said "the department has moved away from those" types of overpasses. "They can cost $10 million," he said.
Attansio said that another problem with the overpasses is they are often ignored by pedestrians.
Delran Mayor Ken Paris agrees that an overpass may not always be the solution. But he believes that an overpass where Smith was killed may be a sound idea since many students from Holy Cross High School cross the highway at that same location to go to the restaurants and shopping center on the other side.
Police Chief Al Parente said that he remembered how the public requested the overpass when the Melinda Stone, the 13-year-old, was killed on the highway in 1992. "People don't use them (overpasses), so the state is reluctant to build them," he said, recalling the official response.
But not everyone is convinced that it's not worth trying. "I was one of Melinda Stone's best friends and I was Christal's teacher in middle school - this crosswalk would have prevented both girls and this town from this ongoing loss!" wrote Melissa Merrill, who signed the petition a month ago.