State and local officials have unveiled plans to improve safety along Cervantes Street in Pensacola. The first step is the installation of new lighting along the roadway.
“And, today we’re making the announcement that a two-and-a-half mile stretch is going to be lighted with 72 lights and it started today,” declared state Senator Doug Broxson of Gulf Breeze.
He made the announcement at a news conference Tuesday morning at the Brownsville Community Center as dozens of neighborhood children looked on.
Broxson says the lighting project, which runs from A Street to Dominquez Street, is the result of collaboration between Escambia County, City of Pensacola, Florida Department of Transportation and Gulf Power Company.
“This is a statement from all of us that we believe in Brownsville,” Broxson said. “It’s a historical part of Pensacola and it has a great future and we want to be involved in that to make sure people are safe and that we’re doing our part, and every governmental entity, to make it happen.”
More improvements are in the works, but Keith Hoskins, district manager for Gulf Power, says the utility responded right away when called on to install the new LED lights.
“The way I look at this project, this is a replace and install,” said Hoskins. “Gulf Power crews are out right now replacing those lights. There's (going to) be new installation of poles to install lights in the neighborhoods surrounding Brownsville, on Cervantes, to ensure safety for all of the children, and the families, and the folks that live here in Pensacola and Escambia County."
The lighting project is set for completion in August.
Hoskins compared it to other lighting enhancement projects Gulf Power has completed on Lillian Highway and along 19-mile stretch of U.S. 98 between Gulf Islands National Seashore and the Okaloosa County line.
The Highway 98 project commenced following a safety audit by the FDOT.
A similar review of Cervantes Street, also designated as State Road 10A/US Highway 90, is currently underway by the state agency, which quickly responded with nearly $200,000 to fund the lighting project.
“We do have safety dollars that are always available for safety projects along corridors throughout the entire district,” said DOT spokesperson Ian Satter.
“So, again as we look at this area, we’re looking at improvements, calm (traffic calming) safety; we can do speed limit studies, all sorts of different things that are available to us now and in the future.”
Lighting and other safety issues on Cervantes Street have been causes for concern for some time, with numerous studies completed over the years. A study by the Florida-Alabama Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) showed that between 2010 and 2014, there 168 total crashes, with 24 involving pedestrians.
The most recent was a hit-and-run crash June 6 at the corner of Cervantes and M Street. Three people were struck. Nephateria Williams, 28, and Neariaah Williams, 8-months-old, died. The child’s mother, 27-year-old Quineka Baldwin, was injured.
As of the posting of this article, the Pensacola Police Department was still searching for the driver of the car, which has been identified as a white 2015-2018 Dodge Challenger.
Update: On Wednesday night, June 13, PPD located the vehicle. Thursday morning, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Markquise Wallace, 25, of Pensacola.
The announcement regarding safety improvements on the roadway came just one week after the tragedy. However, Sen. Broxson maintained that timing was coincidental.
“We were (going to) do the announcement last week, but because of the accident we thought it’d be inappropriate, might look to be too political,” Broxson said. “We’ve been working on this.”
“Unfortunately, the tragic accident that happened, has not been the first death that occurred,” said District 3 Escambia County Commissioner Lumon May. “Even when I was running office, I knew that it needed to be lighted up, not only for traffic measures, but for safety in general.”
May, who represents the Brownsville area, has been working to bring attention to the community, inviting Broxson and other elected officials to a town hall meeting at the Brownsville Community Center two months ago. He calls the lighting a good start.
“This is a very small step in the right direction of traffic calming and making safe and walkable neighborhoods,” May said. “It is the western gate to the city of Pensacola and so this corridor through Brownsville, a once thriving area, has really become a fast lane, fast track.”
Commissioner May credits Sen. Broxon for stepping in to get the state involved. For his part, Broxson says there's much more in the works, including plans for an elderly community center and a new school.
“So, there’s a lot of good things that are (going to) be happening that’s (going to) give people an opportunity to say this is a community I want to be part of,” Broxson said.
A local Change.org petition, We Demand a Safer West Cervantes Street, Now, is reporting that regional TPO has endorsed lowering the speed limit on Cervantes Street. Other safety measures being sought include narrowing the width of travel lanes to force the slowing of traffic, increased police presence and enforcement, and the addition of designated crosswalks.