LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – With the three-year anniversary of a Lakeland teens death, changes are finally coming to a dangerous Polk County road.
Enrique Hernandez, 17, was hit and killed by a minivan, while walking along Dixie Highway to get to Tenoroc High school in Lakeland.
People living nearby blamed the lack of sidewalks for Hernandez’s death, and another student, who was killed in 2008, walking home Tenoroc High School. For years they advocated for a sidewalk to be installed. County Commissioners approved the project and work began in August 2014, a year after Hernandez died. “There was that kind of public outcry for the need for the sidewalk. So, the County Commissioners opted to fund the three phases of the sidewalk,” Bill Skelton, with Polk County Roads and Drainage said. “Before they were having to walk on the edge of the pavement or along the shoulder.”
“We’ve fought for about three years for this,” Hernandez’s sister, Anally said. “He had big plans, going into the army, and doing all this great stuff. He didn’t even make it through his senior year and graduate. It’s really hard.”
Now, three years later, the two-million dollar project is nearly finished. There will be more than a mile of sidewalk along Old Dixie Highway between the school and U.S. 92.
Workers are hurrying to complete the project by the first day of school. “They’re working six days a week, and they’re going to work through this weekend. Students will have a safe place to walk when school begins this year,” Skelton, said.
It is expected to be finished by Sunday, the day before students return to school.
The sidewalk is giving the Hernandez family a little peace that this won’t happen again. “My mom lately has been taking the workers food. We are thankful for them, and what they’re doing. I’m happy this is happeneing, but my brother had to pass away for this to happen. It’s just really hard,” Anally said.
News Channel 8’s Melissa Marino checks in on the progress of the sidewalk as students prepare to head back to school. Don’t miss her story tonight on News Channel 8 @ 7 p.m.