NewsThe NorthSider

Crashes on Natural Bridge draw attention to MoDOT median plan

There have been more in a series of nasty crashes on Natural Bridge Boulevard in a stretch of road where MoDOT is considering placing a center lane median.

The 4-mile stretch, from Goodfellow Boulevard to Salisbury/Parnell streets was designated a Travel Safe Zone last summer by MoDOT and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. The designation was aimed to lessen the high speeds, accidents and fatalities that the stretch of road is known for.

The Travel Safe Zone comprises increased traffic police patrols and doubled fines for motorists committing traffic infractions.

MoDOT recently told The NorthSider that a median down the center of the road was being considered as an additional way to calm traffic. 

Since 2012, there have been 18 fatal crashes, including 13 involving pedestrians. Twenty people have died as a result of those crashes.

In the latest accident Thursday, a light truck traveling eastbound on Natural Bridge sped through a red light at Marcus Avenue, slamming into a car proceeding with the right of way northbound on Marcus, according to eyewitnesses.

A motorist, Laura Sanders, who said she swerved out of the way to avoid being broadsided by the truck, helped a female passenger out of the pickup, which had overturned after rear-ending the car traveling northbound on Marcus.

Sanders said her husband, Tony Sanders, helped the pickup’s driver, a man, out. The Sanderses said that both the man and women re-entered the capsized truck briefly and that the man then walked away to look from a far.

The female passenger, whose condition was not immediately known, was helped to an ambulance that stayed on the scene for at least 30 minutes after the accident, which occurred about 3 p.m.

The car’s driver, Fred Edmunds, complained of neck pain but refused medical attention, saying he didn’t want his car to be towed away by the city.

“I hear about accidents on Natural Bridge, but I didn’t think I would be in one,” said Edmunds, 68, of Clayton.

“I just had this car rebuilt, and look what it did to it,” Edmunds said. “This is why I don’t even come in the city.”

Laura Sanders, who lives a few blocks southeast of the accident site, said she avoided Natural Bridge as much as possible. She had just made a left turn onto eastbound Natural Bridge after Edmunds passed her car.

“They had no reason coming through that light,” Sanders said of the couple in the truck. “This happens all the time.” 

“It’s too many lanes. They bob and weave through traffic if you’re doing the speed limit or going too slow for them,” she added.

As for a median being constructed down the center lane, she said, “That median needs to be wider so it can be one lane, so they will drive the speed limit or stay off of Natural Bridge.”

An onlooker who identified herself as Mrs. Boss said that she was almost run over while crossing the street and that since the accident had happened, cars had steadily been speeding by for the last 20 minutes.

“It’s deadly right here, everybody’s in a hurry,” she said. “This was speeding, this ain’t no: ‘I didn’t see him.’”

The accident victims, Boss said, “better be lucky they’re alive.”

A man wasn’t so lucky after his car was crashed into less than two weeks ago within the Natural Bridge Travel Safe Zone.

On a recent Saturday morning at Natural Bridge and Fair Avenue, a motorist was fatally injured. In this accident, a convertible car was speeding away from a police unit northward on Fair when it slammed into an SUV, killing the driver at the scene.  

The police had observed the car run a stop sign at West Florissant Boulevard and Adelaide Avenue and started a pursuit, according to Lt. Paul Lauer, who talked to reporters at the scene. The driver of the convertible, he said, fled on foot but was later apprehended and hospitalized after a K-9 tracked him down.

Heather Sistrunk, owner of the Kings and Queens Car Wash, situated at the intersection where the fatal crash took place (about a quarter mile east of Thursday’s accident), said that although speeding and reckless driving was common down Natural Bridge, sometimes there were high-speed police chases like the one that Saturday.

“Some of these accidents are fueled by high-speed chases,” Sistrunk said, pointing to a lamp post in front of her business that has been downed three times by car accidents.

Reginald Gaines, who lives in the 4500 block of Natural Bridge about a quarter-mile west of Sistrunk’s car wash and just three blocks from Thursday’s crash, said that the street was dangerous and that motorists were out of control.

“They drive crazy, and they run into cars and then speed off,” he said. His neighbor’s car has been struck four times, and his home has been struck twice.

“We had to build a new porch and put up those wood studs and wire because people keep running into our yard,” Gaines said.

As for the Travel Safe Zone designation, Gains laughed, saying, “Man, they don’t pay that any attention, they still speeding up and down here.”

The proposed median, he said, laughing again, is a good idea, but he doesn’t believe it’s going to help much.

“That ain’t gon’ stop nothing, they ain’t gon’ respect, the real speeders are going to keep speeding.”

Several focus group sessions with residents have been held in the last year, according to Michelle Forneris, MoDOT’s area engineer for the city of St. Louis.

“We took all of the feedback, and we are working on a planned development for construction, to make Natural Bridge safer, but we don’t have it quite ready yet,” Forneris said.

Bill Beene Bill Beene was born and raised in north St. Louis. He has been a journalist for 12 years. He enjoys cooking and roller skating. He lives in the historic Ville neighborhood.

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