Year after girl’s death, new crosswalks for street

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — City leaders and the Downtown Development Authority have approved plans to build two new crosswalks along Bridge and Michigan Street, connecting trails alongside either side of the Grand River and ensuring pedestrian safety.

In May 2018, 8-year-old Nevaeh Alston was hit by a car and killed while crossing Bridge Street near the Grand River with her mother. Tim Kelly, the president and CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday that the death emboldened city leaders to make a change. 

“Those things are tragic and terrible,” Kelly said. “Hopefully this project can help prevent that sort of situation like that in the future.”

Neighbors previously told 24 Hour News 8 they had been pushing for a crosswalk months before Nevaeh’s death. The girl’s mother Sarah Hampton said it’s unfortunate her daughter had to die before the project got enough support to move forward.

“It sucks, it sucks that it takes something like that to happen until they finally do something about it,” she said Tuesday. “It should stop that from happening and that’s really good. Nevaeh’s probably smiling right now.”

The name Nevaeh is heaven spelled backward. Her mom said that’s where her daughter is now looking down from. She said her daughter had a heart for giving. On the night of the crash, they were headed to Ah-Nab-Awen Park so Nevaeh could feed the homeless.

“That was what she loved, she loved giving,” Hampton said. “She gave her organs when she died. Her eyes, the tissues was given to one person, the valves were given to another person, she gave two people sight and then her heart valve, she gave a baby her heart valve and another baby her heart stems.”

The DDA said in a Tuesday release that it has OK’d as much as $410,000 to fund the project. Construction should begin late next month.

“They’ll add signage, for one, but then also dedicated crossing areas for people to use, so we hope that’s a clear signal to both users of the trail but also to motorists that people are going to be using this crossing,” Kelly said. “Providing safe, easy spaces for people to cross and use the trails has been a priority so we were happy to see that project move along quickly.”

There are already two ways currently to cross Bridge Street but one, which takes pedestrians under the bridge along the river, is seasonal and the other detours people a few blocks away to cross at Scribner Avenue. Kelly said the new crossings will finally connect the trail year-round.

“If you’re on the trail, you want to stay on it,” Kelly said. “We’ve seen these desire lines that people want to use on the river trail so we want to provide that opportunity.”

The DDA noted that the crosswalk on the east side of the river will include a median island so pedestrians can cross half of the street at a time. Alterations to the north side right turn lane will widen the sidewalk and narrow the street, forcing traffic to slow. The wider sidewalk will also allow for more landscaping.

Hampton said she’s happy that her daughter is still helping so many people.

“It just makes me think different now,” Hampton said. “I just want be like her and just give now.”

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