Even after safety improvements, parents want more permanent change where 2 teens were struck

December 22, 2018 12:19 AM

Minnesota Department of Transportation engineers are working to improve the safety of an intersection where two 14-year-old girls were struck in the crosswalk by a vehicle last month.

Traffic signs with messages to tell drivers on Highway 47 to lower their speeds as they approached the middle school were deployed last week. The speed limit has also been lowered during certain school times and law enforcement patrols have increased in St. Francis.

"We have a lot stronger community than I ever imagined, the love and support the school and Annie's classmates have been incredible," said Chris LaMotte, father of one of the girls injured. “It's overwhelming. It fills me with the Christmas spirit."  

Annie LaMotte, 14, of Nowthen,  and her friend Kaia Bollmann, 14, of Oak Grove, were hurt after a vehicle struck them at a crosswalk as the two tried to get a snack at a restaurant across from St. Francis Middle School before choir practice.


A month later, Annie is out of the hospital with plans to go back to school after Christmas break, while Bollman remains hospitalized.

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MnDOT plans to hold a community meeting in the next four to six weeks to discuss permanent options on the four-lane highway.

"The road is a little fast and wide for what the people really need in the community," said Melissa Barnes, MnDOT North Area engineer.

State engineers are considering a possible pedestrian bridge, removing a lane of traffic, adding curves or even a roundabout as options.

The study could last one year, with tentative construction beginning in 2021, based on funding, MnDOT said.

"For MnDOT that's incredibly fast, that's probably lightning speed," said Barnes. “We're taking steps in the interim to make sure it's as safe as possible, it's going to take time."

"I absolutely want more," Chris LaMotte said. ”I think government has its own speed and it's frustrating. I can't tell you how slow our minutes moved in the hospital, these minutes to us matter a lot."

In the hours after the November crash, school parents formed a petition to make safety changes on Highway 47.

“It’s going to take some time to conduct surveys to figure out the best options for what needs to be done, until then we need something permanent,” said parent Christina Bass, who started the petition drive.

Bass wants the speed limit lowered on Highway 47 regardless if children are present and more flashing lights to alert drivers while they wait for MnDOT's study.

To learn more about the timelines for the Highway 47 project, click here.

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Eric Chaloux

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