JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Loved ones are demanding safety changes following the deaths of three people who were killed in traffic accidents this year along Soutel Drive in Northwest Jacksonville.
Family members gathered Wednesday evening along Soutel Drive to speak out about concerns they have that the road is dangerous, and the city of Jacksonville responded.
“I came out today in support of my mother who passed away at this very location,” said Sonya Holton, the daughter of Edna Holton.
On Jan. 16, Edna Holton and her friend, Della Laliberte, were trying to turn off Soutel Drive into an area community center when the vehicle that they were traveling in was slammed into on the 35 mph road, where locals told News4Jax that people speed all the time. Edna Holton and Laliberte both died.
“You have people speeding on this road all the time. The traffic lights here, there really needs to be a turn signal here," said Latasha Holton, Edna Holton’s daughter and Sonya Holton’s sister. “You have a nursing home right up the street. You have senior citizens that still drive on this road, and they even walk on this road.”
About a mile away from the mid-January crash, Lynard Green, 34, was walking on the sidewalk along Soutel Drive on Feb. 22 when he was killed in a hit-and-run crash.
“The person that hit him continued to go on and left him there like a dead dog. And I think that Soutel (Drive) needs to have more traffic control,” said Lilian Smith, a relative of Green. “This has to stop."
The family members want safety changes, and there was a community meeting Wednesday night on a proposed “road diet” for Soutel Drive, which would shrink the busy four-lane road into a slower two-lane road with a wide turn lane in the middle. Traffic planners told the families it will cut down on deaths.
“The community has been asking for certain things regarding street lights and regarding the turn signals for a while,” Sonya Holton said.
City Councilwoman Brenda Priestly Jackson, who represents this area, told residents Wednesday evening that she’s intent on using $3.4 million that the city has for this project because, if it’s passed up, the money moves on to different parts of town, where other roads have the same problem.
“As the elected council member, I intend to bring more resources into District 10, but I’m definitely not giving any back,” Priestly Jackson said.
But during the community meeting, concerns were raised, such as whether businesses along Soutel Drive would suffer and whether a crash would cause regular traffic jams on Soutel Drive. There are also the families of Edna Holton and Laliberte, who are requesting that the city amend its plan and include a turn signal at the intersection where the two women were killed in a crash.
“To have this happen right here, it’s just, I can’t even wrap my head around it,” Latasha Holton said.
If the proposed project moves forward, it would likely finish up sometime late next year.
Also, a traffic engineer said residents who spot a street light that’s out should take a photo of the traffic light number and then report it to the city or JEA. With that number, they will be able to identify the light’s location.