TAMPA — City transportation officials said Thursday it could take three to four months to put a sidewalk on the East Tampa block where a young mother and her unborn son were killed last month.
"If we can get it in sooner, we will," city transportation manager Jean Dorzback told City Council members during an update on actions taken since the Nov. 16 accident. "We're trying to make it a priority."
But that wasn't good enough for skeptical council members or grieving relatives.
"My sister is gone," Nicole Walker said of 27-year-old Monica Alvarez, who died after being struck by a car as she and a friend pushed strollers down a darkened N 43rd Street near Hillsborough Avenue. "And I know if there was a sidewalk out there, she would have walked on it."
Likewise, she said, if the street had been better lit, the driver who hit her sister could have seen the women and their strollers.
"Just show some concern," Walker pleaded. "Just show me you care."
Council members were disturbed that the city staff had made no improvements — no sidewalks, no additional lighting and no speed humps — to the block where the accident took place. After asking pointed questions of the staff, they demanded another report next week.
"There better be something, something physical, that's happened" by then, council member Mary Mulhern said.
Dorzback said she and her staff have been pushing to clear the way to build a sidewalk on the west side of 43rd Street.
But the city cannot put a sidewalk on land it doesn't own, so it is working with the family who owns the land at the northwest corner of 43rd and Hillsborough. A survey is under way to determine where the property line is between the privately owned land and the city's right-of-way.
The right-of-way at 43rd Street is 25 feet wide and the road itself is 22 feet across, leaving just 1 1/2 feet on either side, which is not enough for a sidewalk, said Steve Daignault, the city's public works and utilities administrator.
The survey is expected to be done today. When it is, city officials say they'll try to negotiate an easement that would allow at least part of the sidewalk to go on private property. The family who owns the property has been responsive and willing to work with the city, Dorzback said. Then the sidewalk can be designed and built.
Getting an easement also will put the city in a position to ask Tampa Electric to add street lights to the area. There is a street light at each corner of 43rd north of Hillsborough, and there's another light north of the scene of the crash, officials said.
Meanwhile, Dorzback told the council that the city is talking with the same property owners about getting permission to prune trees on the property that are partly blocking the lights.
She also said the street has been on a list of roads that need speed tables to slow drivers, but other locations were higher on the list, a fact that stunned council member Frank Reddick.
"This should be a priority," he said. "You just had somebody die there."
In response, Dorzback said that, yes, the city would install speed tables on the street.
Alvarez and her friend Shantia Little were pushing their baby girls in strollers down 43rd Street at 7:44 p.m. when a 1999 Lincoln Continental driven by Daryl Oliver, 25, struck them from behind. Alvarez, who was six months' pregnant, died. Her son, named Angel, was delivered by emergency Caesarean section but lived only an hour.
Alvarez's 1-year-old daughter, Imani Golden, also suffered serious head and lung injuries.
Police have said Oliver had his headlights on, did not appear to be traveling at an excessive speed and immediately pulled over and called 911.
An investigation is continuing, and no charges have been filed.