Accidents highlight dangers of walking on Old Spanish Trail
Kyle Barnett - Nov 21, 2013
A makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, balloons and a sign reading “R.I.P.” sit on the side of Old Spanish Trail in Boutte.
The memorial recognizes the site where 32-year-old Shantrelle Dunmiles was killed on Nov. 8. Dunmiles was walking along Old Spanish Trail under I-310 when she was struck and killed by a truck that was passing another car on the road.
Within the past two weeks, three pedestrians have been hit by cars on state highways within St. Charles Parish.Two of those people were hit on Old Spanish Trail, which runs from Boutte, through Paradis and into Des Allemands.
Throughout the length of the road, there are no sidewalks and hardly any shoulder.
Only four nights before Dunmiles’ incident her cousin, Merika Hill, was hit by a truck while walking to church on Old Spanish Trail. Hill, who was with her 16-month-old daughter and 6-year-old son, pushed the children out of the way before she was run over.
The driver of the truck that hit her did not stop and a Des Allemands man was later arrested and charged with hit and run in connection with the incident.
Hill suffered several broken bones and internal injuries that required emergency surgery. She said she had no other choice but to walk on the roadway because there are no sidewalks in the area or a shoulder.
“They need sidewalks because they don’t have any. There is no shoulder, no nothing,” she said.
Paul Hogan, who is the councilman in Hill’s district, said he certainly understands the need for pedestrians to use the roadway to travel.
“It is really difficult because it is a close-knit community back there and people like to go to their neighbors’ homes. There is really no way to get from one neighbor to the next,” he said.
However, Hogan said the highway is under the control of the state and there is very little the parish can do.
“Old Spanish Trail is a state highway and it would have to be a state project to do anything to try and fix it. The thing is that there is really no right of way along there that I know of where anything can be done to try and put sidewalks or something. It is a tight area back there,” he said.
Councilwoman Julia Fisher-Perrier said that while the state would have to make any improvements to the highway, there are a few things the St. Charles Parish Council can do.
“When we’ve got issues with state roads it does need to start with the local politicians. We can draft resolutions and lobby for the higher legislation to do something,” she said.
Fisher-Perrier said she has been working with the state Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) to fix other areas of the parish that have similar problems.
“Even though these accidents have happened on Old Spanish Trail, I would say it is an ongoing thing on Paul Maillard Road because the residents there primarily don’t have any transportation,” she said. “There is some money from DOTD and we’ve just got to come up with a plan for what we need and get something done (on Paul Maillard).”
In the future, Fisher-Perrier could see a similar arrangement being made on Old Spanish Trail.
“You’ve got to spearhead it. It does seem like a pretty immediate concern now with these happening very close together,” she said. “I’d be on board to support anything. If we need to draw up a resolution, I’d definitely be in support of that in regards to Old Spanish Trail.”
Rodney Mallet, spokesman for the Louisiana DOTD, said the state would study the roadway if the Parish Council authored a resolution requesting improvements.
“We will conduct an engineering study which includes analyzing the crash data to determine if feasible countermeasures can be implemented. Our findings would be reported back to the council,” he said. “That’s how we usually respond to these types of requests,.”
In the meantime, pedestrians can do things to protect themselves in the absence of sidewalks and shoulders on a road.
Trooper Melissa Matey, public information officer for Louisiana State Police Troop B, said pedestrians should always be aware of their surroundings.
“There are still rules and regulations for pedestrians. That old adage that pedestrians always have the right of way is not the law and it never has been,” she said.
In addition, Matey said pedestrians should be careful not to wear dark clothing when walking along roadways at night and to walk against the flow of traffic.
However, it is clear that those are only guidelines as in Dunmiles’ case she was walking against the flow of traffic and was still killed.
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