Kylee Borg: Help coming for some of Florida’s most-dangerous roads
Jacksonville, like most of Florida, is a dangerous place to walk. Last year it was ranked the sixth-most deadly in the country by Smart Growth America. In 2022, 207 people were killed in traffic crashes on the city’s roads, including 50 pedestrians. In the overall top-20 dangerous-by-design cities study, Florida accounted for seven of the cities on the list, making Florida the second-worst place for pedestrian safety in the country.
This is a horrific danger that I know all too well. One of my closest friends, 18-year-old University of Florida student Maggie Paxton, was killed on a known deadly road — University Avenue in Gainesville — as she was trying to walk home to her dorm. The following month, a driver jumped the curb and struck five other students, killing 19-year-old Sophia Lambert.
I was lucky enough to know Maggie for as long as I can remember. She taught me how to be a good friend and was the most genuine and kind-hearted person I have ever met. She excelled in academics, athletics, friendship and giving back. You will never meet anyone more selfless, passionate or loving than she was. She had such a bright future ahead of her, and her love was taken from the world way too soon.
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Her death and the following horrible crashes inspired University of Florida students like me to demand changes to the road. Organizations like student-led Florida Not One More and Gators Against Student Pedestrian Deaths have joined forces with national organizations like Families for Safe Streets to work against these senseless tragedies in our community.
Now, thankfully, additional federal help is coming as well. Jacksonville, Gainesville and dozens of other Florida communities will be getting much-needed funding as part of the U.S. DOT’s new $5 billion Safe Streets and Roads for All program, which arose out of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. Jacksonville is getting a $280,000 grant to develop a “Vision Zero Action Plan,” aimed at reducing those deaths and injuries over the long term to zero. University Avenue in Gainesville will get $8 million to overhaul the length of the 4-mile street for safety, and this redesign is critical to the safety of University of Florida students and Gainesville residents.
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The crisis on our roadways is an area where everyone across the political spectrum must unite on finding solutions. One hundred and twenty people, like our loved ones, are killed on our roadways each and every day, but these deaths are preventable with intentional policies and investments like those being undertaken as part of this program. Some have become desensitized to this routine loss of life, but when it strikes you or someone you love — as it has for every member of Families for Safe Streets — the imperative for addressing it becomes apparent.
We can never bring back Maggie. But we can prevent the next parent, child, sibling or friend from leaving to go somewhere and never coming back. We have a lot of work to do but these critical, targeted investments point the way forward and we hope they are just the beginning to making our streets safer.
Kylee Borg, originally from Jacksonville Beach, is a student at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
This guest column is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Times-Union. We welcome a diversity of opinions.