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Street closures aim to curb reckless driving downtown

CITY HALL – Speeding, drag racing, donuts and wheelies – and a teenage girl who lost her life on Washington Avenue – have spurred the city to take new measures to curb dangerous driving.

Sierra Ward, 17, of De Soto was riding in the bed of a pickup truck on Washington near 10th Street on Aug. 17 when a speeding car crashed into the truck. Sierra was flung out of the truck and killed.

Now, Washington Avenue has been closed between 14th Street and Tucker Boulevard (12th Street). East of Tucker, several blocks of Washington have been made one-way, allowing only westbound traffic.

Fourth Street and Broadway, which are already one-way streets, have been narrowed in spots to force drivers to pay extra attention and slow down.

Earlier, to keep crowds from congregating, barriers were put up on the riverfront, and some parking was eliminated along Market in front of Kiener Plaza. The Eads Bridge has been temporarily closed.

“We have been tweaking this … all summer,” Mayor Lyda Kewson said Friday in her livestreamed press conference. “We hope that really curtails the speeding and the racing.”

Krewson acknowledged that the barriers weren’t attractive. Some people have complained that they make Washington look downright ugly, she said.

“It is. … That’s all you can say about that. … But this is about safety,” she reminded viewers. “If these measures are going to last any length of time, we’ll have to figure out something that’s not so ugly. But for now, the city needs to get a handle on the traffic problems.”

To those who complain about narrow streets, Krewson said: “These streets are made for many, many more cars than we normally have on a normal day downtown; and frankly, we’re not at a normal day traffic-wise because of COVID. Many of our streets are much wider than they need to be.”

Restricting access to certain streets won’t solve the various problems, she noted; it may simply shift those problems to other areas of the city.

“When you make a change in one place … it often moves somewhere else,” she said.

So this weekend, the city will have extra law enforcement and tow trucks out to clear problem drivers from the downtown streets.

“I’m sure they think they’re having fun, but they’re really disrupting the 10,000 people who live downtown, they’re making it impossible for the businesses downtown,” Krewson asserts. “So … we’ll be out this weekend.

“I hope it’s better. I think it will be.”



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