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Slain student's family supports MIT campaign to make Memorial Drive safer

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.--With support from the family of a student killed in an accident on Memorial Drive, MIT has stepped up its campaign to convince the Commonwealth to make that road safer for pedestrians.

"They should������������������do something,"������������������said Elmer Micheletti of Millbrae, CA, whose daughter, Michele, was killed on October 31 when she was struck by three cars while crossing Memorial Drive, across from New House, a residence hall at 471-475 Memorial������������������Drive. Ms. Micheletti, 19, a sophomore, was a vice president of New House. "No one else should ever have to go through what we've been through," said Mr. Micheletti.

The campaign,������������������launched in 1993, has focused primarily on the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Memorial Drive. During that time, MIT paid for traffic studies and engineering plans that address problems involving pedestrian safety, traffic flow and overall safety. Safety improvements recommended for that intersection include:

��������������������������� Removing the median to allow a left turn from the Harvard Bridge onto Memorial Drive, eliminating U-turns and unnecessary traffic on Amherst Street.
��������������������������� The installation of traffic lights at the intersection and at the ends of the ramps.
��������������������������� Timing the signals to allow pedestrians to cross comfortably.
��������������������������� Installing crosswalks at all four approaches with "bulb outs" that extend the sidewalks to shorten pedestrian crossing distance.
��������������������������� Installing speed������������������limit signs in appropriate locations.

Thus far, efforts to convince the MDC to pay for the improvements have been unsuccessful. The construction costs are estimated at $250,000.

Memorial Drive is historically dangerous for vehicles and pedestrians, with the Massachusetts Avenue intersection among the 100 most accident-prone locations in the Commonwealth. The speed������������������limit on Memorial Drive is 35 mph and 30 mph on Massachusetts Avenue and the bridge.

Safety improvements are also contemplated for the intersections of Wadsworth, Ames, Endicott and Fowler Streets.

The MIT Planning Office and the Office of Government and Community Relations have formed a Steering Committee on Pedestrian Safety to enlist support for the project from commercial and residential neighbors, government officials,������������������parents, alumni/ae, faculty and students. More than 400 students signed a petition calling for safety measures on Memorial Drive before Ms. Micheletti's death. "If something had been done then, we wouldn't be going through the nightmare now," said Mr. Micheletti.

Professor John Essigmann, housemaster of New House, and his wife, Ellen,������������������wrote to acting Gov.������������������A.������������������Paul Cellucci in December urging him to install traffic lights to augment crosswalks that were created shortly after Ms. Micheletti was killed.

"While well-intentioned, the new crosswalks and the signs reminding drivers of their responsibility to stop for pedestrians do not appear to work," the Essigmanns wrote.

In the letter, the Essigmanns warned: "Another traffic accident is just as likely to happen as it was a month ago."������������������ On April 6, a pedestrian, 49-year-old Larry Roach, was struck by a car and killed when he raced across Memorial Drive near the Harvard Bridge. Ironically, the day would have been Michele Micheletti's 20th birthday.

Secretary of Environmental Affairs Trudy Coxe responded to the Essigmanns on April 17. She noted that four crosswalks had been installed and improved signs posted. In addition, she said the MDC had hired a consultant to recommend improved traffic control patterns.

The Michelettis have shared their concerns with President Charles Vest, Dean Robert Randolph,������������������Planning Office Director Robert Simha, the Essigmanns, and law enforcement officials. They also have visited the intersection where their daughter was killed and noted the speeding vehicles as the road widens from two to three lanes and the poor lighting.

"The longer this goes on, the more lives are in danger," said Mr.������������������Micheletti. "Maybe we can make the difference."

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