St. Landry

Jan 17, 2013 11:49 PM by Erin Steuber

Another Pedestrian Death on I-49 Sparks Discussion for Change

A headline that's been in the news before, a fatal crash involving a pedestrian overnight on I-49 in Opelousas. The most recent just north of the Creswell Ln. exit at about 3 o'clock this morning.

Police say 32-year-old Carlos Weston was crossing the highway from the north service road when he was hit by an oncoming car. Investigators say the driver never saw Weston because he was wearing dark-colored clothing. This is not the first time a pedestrian has been killed trying to cross the interstate in that area.

According to Opelousas Police typically one person is killed doing so every year. Last year two people lost their lives. Bottom line, crossing I-49 is the quickest way to get to a shopping center on Creswell. This latest tragedy is now re-igniting old calls for change in that spot along the highway.

With traffic going upwards of 70 miles per hour, crossing 6 lanes is dangerous, and has often proved deadly. 14-year-old, J'qualn Hicks lives nearby.

"They was a pedestrian that got killed today and that hurts me because I almost got hit," said Hicks.

But for others who live in the neighborhood, on the west side of I-49, it's normal see people running across the highway.

"People shouldn't cross the road like that. They should build an overpass so people can walk safely , it's simple," said Vincent Chevis.

Opelousas Police say the problem has been going on for years, and in 2006 DOTD installed signs along the highway reminding people it's illegal to cross.

"One death is too much. We do deal with young kids who are attempting to cross the highway to go to Walmart, and we've escorted them home," said OPD Chief Perry Gallow. "But we've written tickets for adults as well."

Now another death has re-ignited the discussion of installing a pedestrian crosswalk over I-49 to the shopping center. Something that will take time, and money.

"But there has to be some measure of validity, and ability to pay for a structure such as this, which is very expensive," said St. Landry Parish President Bill Fontenot. "But what does a life cost, a life is invaluable."

Again it is illegal to cross I-49. Police say they will be increasing patrols in the area, and issuing tickets to anyone who tries to do so. The Community Action Center in Opelousas is a federally funded program that can provide rides to anyone for free. You can call 948-3688 to schedule a ride, and they can safely take you to the store and back.

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