BROOKSVILLE — A sidewalk and streetlights will soon line the stretch of California Street where a 13-year-old girl was struck and killed while walking to a school bus stop last year.
The Hernando County Metropolitan Planning Organization Board voted earlier this month to include the $464,373 project in the county's transportation improvement plan. The sidewalk and lights will extend for a mile along the west side of California from Powell Road to just north of Sandusky Street.
Kaitlyn Harper, an eighth-grader at West Hernando Middle, was walking along the edge of that section of road in the predawn darkness on Sept. 9, 2008, when she was struck from behind by a pickup. She died at the hospital later that morning.
Juanita Hillerud, Kaitlyn's grandmother, said she and her daughter Evelyn Harper-Cannova — Kaitlyn's mother — welcomed the news of the sidewalk and lights. "We're both ecstatic and grateful," Hillerud said. "It's about time."
There are more than a dozen residential cross streets and at least one school bus stop along that stretch of California. There are no shoulders, only deep ditches and grassy swales. The speed limit is 50 mph.
Chocachatti Elementary and Nature Coast Technical High schools are on the southwest corner of Powell Road and California Street.
The accident made California a priority at the urging of school district officials, said Dennis Dix, the county's MPO coordinator. The money will come from the federal Safe Routes to School program administered through the Florida Department of Transportation.
Construction could be under way by the end of the year and will take a few months to complete, Dix said.
Meanwhile, the MPO is seeking about $178,000 in federal stimulus funding to build a three-quarter-mile stretch of sidewalk along the south side of Powell west of California. If the funding comes through, construction could start in the spring, Dix said.
Tony Marrero can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1431.