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City officials and UF students call for reconstruction of University Ave after pedestrian death

City officials and UF students call for reconstruction of University Ave after pedestrian death
Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 6:23 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Earlier this month 19-year-old Sophia Lambert was struck and killed due to a car accident.

“It made me feel unsafe in the area I know Gainesville is a new territory for me so I wasn’t really comfortable staying here especially after the fact,” explained UF student, Jenavive King.

She lives right behind the area where a fellow gator was struck on university avenue and killed while standing on the sidewalk.

“I think there needs to be more of a police presence maybe,” added King.

The Gainesville Police Department is working on that by launching the Gator Special Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) program, which will include more police in the area on foot and in cars.

“It’s going to be a two part effort on our behalf,” said Public Information Officer, Graham Glover. “One is education and one is enforcements so you’re going to see an increase in our patrol officers on streets both on foot and in cars.”

While students are concerned about just walking in their own neighborhood, city commissioners call for a change in the structure of university ave. The biggest issue is that the city can’t change the road on their own because university avenue is a state road.

“It’s part of the florida state highway system and that’s always been the difficulty,” added District 3 Gainesville City Commissioner, David Arreola.

The city is meeting to discuss the issue with residents and break down what they are able to do, like GPD’s Gator STEP.

“Some of these changes could take a while to come about,” explained Glover. “But, GPD didn’t want to just sit back and wait for what is going to be a longer process.”

Arreola and residents want to see speed bumps but a complete reconstruction.

“We need a complete redesign for that road, it is still designed like a highway from the ’80s,” added Arreola. “If i could go out on a cement truck and put speed bumps this afternoon i would but i need to get their permission and i don’t think that’s an acceptable answer to all the families who are grieving.”

Just last month hit and run victim, Margaret Paxton, also died on the state road, University Ave. Arreola says playing the blame game is no longer acceptable considering the lives loss.

“You know I’ve never seen anything like it and it hurts very deeply,” expressed Arreola. “I’m channeling that pain into action and resolve to do something about it.”

King shares that same pain due to the Gator’s loss.

“It’s really difficult to know that someone that goes to our school and someone who had dreams and aspirations just lost their life,” explained King.

A memorial service and candlelight ceremony will take place Friday, Jan. 22 at 5:15pm at Chabad UF Jewish Student Center.

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