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  • Randy Pench / rpench@sacbee.com

    Mary Murigi of Sacramento holds a portrait of her daughter Michelle Murigi during a press conference in front of West Campus High School on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 in Sacramento, Calif. Sacramento City Council member Kevin McCarty and Superintendent Jonathan Raymond, with Sacramento City Unified school board members, announced a plan for improving the safety of a Fruitridge Road and 58th Street crosswalk. On Jan. 19, 2012, West Campus student Michelle Murigi, 16, was hit by a car in the crosswalk and died from her injuries.

  • Randy Pench / rpench@sacbee.com

    Mary Murigi of Sacramento, left, talks to Siena Antolin, 16, a senior at West Campus ,following a press conference in front of West Campus High School on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 in Sacramento, Calif. Antolin was a classmate and friend of Michelle Murigi who spoke briefly at the event. Sacramento City Council member Kevin McCarty and Superintendent Jonathan Raymond, with Sacramento City Unified school board members, announced a plan for improving the safety of a Fruitridge Road and 58th Street crosswalk. On Jan. 19, 2012, West Campus student Michelle Murigi, 16, was hit by a car in the crosswalk and died from her injuries.

  • Randy Pench / rpench@sacbee.com

    On Jan. 19, 2012, West Campus student Michelle Murigi, 16, was hit by a car and died from her injuries at this crosswalk at 58th Street and Fruitridge Road photographed on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 in Sacramento, Calif. Sacramento City Council member Kevin McCarty and Superintendent Jonathan Raymond, with Sacramento City Unified school board members, announced a plan for improving the safety of crosswalk on Fruitridge Road south of the campus.

Friends of teen killed in traffic accident win approval for new signal

Published: Thursday, Sep. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Thursday, Sep. 12, 2013 - 6:37 am

Mary Murigi stood outside the front entrance of Sacramento’s West Campus High School and held tight a framed picture of her daughter Michelle when Sacramento City Council member Kevin McCarty made the announcement early Wednesday.

The city and the Sacramento City Unified School District announced a partnership to fund the design and installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of Fruitridge Road and 58th Street.

Design work is already underway, and installation should be completed in six to eight months, McCarty said.

Murigi said the announcement meant “a great deal” to her. It has been nearly 20 months since her 16-year-old daughter was fatally hit by a car while walking across the intersection near her south Sacramento school.

“It means to me that a life will be saved,” Murigi said after Wednesday’s news conference. “It’s also very sad, and it hurts me, and it pains me that Michelle’s life had to be taken away for another to be saved.”

McCarty – along with other speakers, such as district Superintendent Jonathan Raymond and district board President Jeff Cuneo – all commented on the amount of time it ended up taking for a traffic signal to gain approval.

“My expectation is that we would’ve had tractors out here digging,” Raymond said. “It should not have to take so much time.”

The call to increase pedestrian safety on Fruitridge Road gained resonance quickly after Michelle Murigi’s death.

On Jan. 19, 2012, Michelle had volunteered to help younger children as a mentor at Mark Twain Elementary School, adjacent to West Campus High School where she was a student.

After the mentoring program had ended, Michelle headed to a bus stop, which required crossing Fruitridge Road.

Sacramento police said a car in the far eastbound lane had stopped to allow Michelle to cross at 56th Street, but a car in the inside eastbound lane continued through the crosswalk and struck her. The second driver had been unable to see Michelle because of the stopped car.

Michelle suffered severe trauma and died the next day.

According to Terry Preston, coordinator of pedestrian advocacy group WALK Sacramento, Fruitridge Road was initially designed as a “mini-highway in an urban area.”

“That leads to people flying down the road too fast,” he said.

Preston said the city of Sacramento has known about unsafe conditions on Fruitridge for years. Sacramento’s Department of Public Works has ranked the intersection at 58th Street as a site where a traffic signal should be installed for roughly a decade, he said.

But the intersection has never ranked high enough for city action to be taken.

According to McCarty, traffic signals cost around $400,000, and typically the city allocates enough funds in its budget to cover only one new traffic signal each year. The location of this signal is chosen by a priority list created by the Department of Transportation and based on a variety of factors, such as number of collisions, traffic volume and speed of vehicles at each eligible intersection.

Using only these criteria, the city would likely not have installed a traffic signal at Fruitridge and 58th for years, McCarty said.

It was Michelle’s friends and peers who successfully pushed for the installation of the traffic signal, representatives from the city and school district said Wednesday.

Filmmaker Vanessa Hernandez produced a documentary about the need for a traffic light at Fruitridge.

Five West Campus High School students, including senior Siena Antolin, who spoke at Wednesday’s event, canvassed the neighborhood for support. They also launched an online petition, which has accumulated more than 1,000 signatures.

Antolin said she is grateful that the city and district are finally taking steps to address the situation. “I feel so pleased that we had actually made a breakthrough and that our voices were being heard and that Michelle was not going to die in vain,” said Antolin, who had been friends with Michelle since elementary school.

“But then again, I thought it sucks that we had to have a death for the city to figure out, ‘Hey, maybe we should do something.’”

Antolin said she hopes the new Fruitridge traffic signal empowers other students to fight for pedestrian safety measures near their own school to prevent similar tragedies.

Mary Murigi said she appreciated the efforts of her daughter’s friends.

“For them to rally behind this cause, it just shows how much they appreciated Michelle, and how much she affected their lives,” Murigi said. “I’m very grateful even for the friends because I don’t think I would’ve come this far without their help.”

According to McCarty, the new traffic light will not remedy the unsafe conditions at Fruitridge completely, but he hopes it will draw more attention to pedestrian safety.

“It’s no longer about Michelle,” Murigi said. “For me, it’s about that life that is there today that will not be taken away at this intersection. That’s what matters to me now.”

Read more articles by Kurt Chirbas



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