ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — A St. Johns County mother is fighting for the safety of her 9-year-old daughter who has to walk to school just steps from the 9B on-ramp.
This comes after a trailer loaded with tree branches rolled over on St. Johns Parkway Monday morning – near the sidewalk Bella Edwards has to use to get to Liberty Pines Academy.
The same sidewalk where she missed a rollover crash by minutes while riding her bike to school back in October.
“It felt very scary," Bella described. "I felt like something was going to happen to me.”
Another Liberty Pines 3rd grader, Molly Bragg, has only heard about the crashes.
“I was nervous because I never wanted to walk on the sidewalk ever again," Molly said.
In 2019, the school bus services to the girl’s part of the St. Johns Forest subdivision was discontinued – constructed as part of the 9B project – was built, which put them within a two-mile radius of the school.
“She doesn't take it because it's not safe," Molly's mother Erin Bragg explained. "I'm not comfortable with how close the sidewalk is to the road. I'm not comfortable with the speeding cars. Now that they've put 9B here, the traffic on this road has grown exponentially. It just it takes five seconds and somebody is gonna die. So, it's just not worth it.”
From the end of Jan. 2020 to the end of Jan. 2021, the St. Johns County Sheriffs Office recorded 20 crashes, 41 citations and 103 warnings on St. Johns Parkway near the 9B ramp.
Earlier this month, Bella’s mother Clara Edwards requested Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and St. Superintendent Tim Forsan to reinstate the school bus to their part of the nearby neighborhood via special authorization or by citing hazardous walking conditions.
“Two weeks ago, we got some endorsement from Senator Travis Hutson, House Representative Cindy Stevenson, and some of the county commissioners," Edwards said.
In response, the St. Johns County School District says Superintendent Forsan sent a letter to the Florida Department of Transportation – dated March 18 – requesting a review of the roadway to see if a “hazardous condition exists.”
However, the district said it has not yet received a reply back from FDOT.
“We're very hopeful that they will do the right thing for the safety of the students," Edwards explained. "It’s a county issue. It's not just the school board. It's everybody's – all of St. Johns County. They want the kids to be safe.“