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City Responds to Calls for Safety Fixes at Fatal Hit-And-Run Site

image1Kevin Pacheco, 17, and Romeo De la Cruz, 18, visit a memorial for Jonathan Cortez on Oct. 12, 2015. Cortez was killed in a hit and run Oct. 9, 2015 near the intersection of 54th and Lea streets. | Photo Credit: Megan Burks, KPBS

By Megan Burks
Logo for K P B S San Diego

A bike lane could soon come to the stretch of 54th Street in San Diego where a Mid-City teen was killed in a hit-and-run last month.

City crews are out this week assessing the roadway at the request of community members who believe a lack of bike lanes and sidewalks was a factor in the Oct. 9 crash that left 15-year-old Jonathan Cortez dead.

Randy Van Vleck, who advocates for transportation improvements on behalf of residents through the City Heights Community Development Corporation, contacted city engineer Brian Genovese about the intersection shortly after the crash, and the pair found a potential solution in an existing street resurfacing project.

Roadwork was already scheduled for 54th Street between Laurel Street and Chollas Parkway – just south of the problem intersection.

“As part of (the resurfacing) process, the bike program looks at opportunities for making bikeway improvements,” Genovese said. “Because there was this fatality that occurred between Chollas and University, I told Randy that we would assess that segment in addition to the segment that we were already going to be assessing.”

If the street can accommodate a bike lane, crews would restripe the street up to University Avenue. That’s three blocks more than planned.

City spokesman Bill Harris said crews will know next week whether the bike lane is going in.

It’s the kind of efficiency and flexibility residents should expect more of as the city tackles its street problems, Genovese said.

“To give you some perspective, there’s roughly 3,000 miles of roadways that are in the city and the challenge is to do about 10 percent a year in resurfacing. And as part of that process we’re looking to make safety improvements,” Genovese said.

Police still don’t know why Jonathan was in the road when multiple drivers hit him. One driver has come forward, but investigators are asking the community to help with more information. No arrests have been made.


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