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Pittsburgh residents put pressure on leaders to make streets safer

Residents put pressure on leaders to make streets safer in Pittsburgh
Residents put pressure on leaders to make streets safer in Pittsburgh 02:46

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pittsburghers pushing to make the city's streets safer heard from Mayor Ed Gainey on Tuesday.

People are putting pressure on leaders after a 4-year-old boy was injured by a hit-and-run driver earlier this month. Many people turned out for answers on Tuesday during a community meeting, including that little boy and his mother.

Gainey honored 4-year-old Elijah Rivers, who was hit by the driver of an SUV on Webster Avenue and sent to the hospital. Surveillance video caught the driver leaving the scene. Investigators said 74-year-old James Phelps was behind the wheel of the SUV. He has since been charged.

The crash sparked calls to install speed bumps, which neighbors have wanted since long before. 

"I actually thought that they were going to help us," resident Jackie Wright said. "So, a study should have been done a long time ago. I've been calling for a year."

In the end, the city could only promise a study. 

"We made a commitment to move it to the top of the list of projects that are being studied," said Rebekkah Ranallo, neighborhood services manager for the city. "We can't in good faith make a promise."

Rivers' mother, Shawntae Averytt, said she wants change. 

"It's very frustrating," she said. "I'm hoping we get a speed bump, but I'm also hoping drivers just slow down."

Some residents left dissatisfied. 

"The city told us a lot of things tonight, but I want to see action," said Carmen Pace. 

"I'm never going to be satisfied until they can give me a definite date that they are coming," Wright said. "I didn't get any of that tonight. We got a lot of smiles and hugs. We need help." 

After Tuesday's meeting, KDKA-TV asked Gainey why it took so long to get action. 

"Now that we understand what is exactly going on, you see us move that street to a priority list. We don't want anybody to die in our streets," Gainey said. 

"We did a lot to revamp the 311," he added. "We made a lot of different moves in the 311 because we were backed up. You heard them say they did more than 100,000 calls last year."  

Gainey said the city should have the traffic study results by the end of March. He didn't know when speed bumps could be installed if the city decided they were needed. 

In the meantime, short-term options include fresh paint for road lines and crosswalks and more policing.

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