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Could the Red Hill Valley Parkway be safer?

Jordyn Hastings and Olivia Smosarki died when their car crossed the median and hit an oncoming van on the Red Hill Valley Parkway. Now the city is looking at how to make the highway more safe.

City looking into it after 2 recent high school grads were killed in a crash

Jordyn Hastings and Olivia Smosarski died when their car crossed the median on the Red Hill Valley Parkway. The city is looking at how safe the road is. Their families say it's overdue. (Jordyn Hastings/Facebook)

It was a painful and frustrating meeting on Thursday for the family of Jordyn Hastings, one of two young women killed in a crash on the Red Hill Valley Parkway this month.

Hastings and her friend Olivia Smosarki, recent high school graduates, died when their car crossed the median around 11:30 p.m. on May 5 and crashed into a van.

On Thursday, the city's public works committee talked about improving the highway — possibly with lighting and guardrails, and other amenities that would prevent such an incident from happening again.

It's good that the city is looking at it, said Colette Wilson. She's the grandmother of 20-year-old Jordyn Hastings, who was a competitive swimmer, fitness enthusiast and animal lover.

But it frustrated her to hear that there have been complaints about the road for years.

"If they recognize that there are difficulties with the road, why does it take so long?" she said.

The deaths of Hastings and Smosarki, 19, touched thousands and inspired social media outpouring. There are still no firm answers as to why the Mazda carrying the women crossed the median that Tuesday night. The car crashed into a van driven by a 28-year-old woman, who walked away with minor injuries.

After their deaths, internet commenters wondered aloud why the highway has no median. People who knew the women are struggling to make sense of it, Wilson said.

"Nobody did anything wrong, so everyone wants to know why. There's no reason why except the road."

The state of the road, and whether it leads to collisions, was the thrust of Coun. Sam Merulla's motion on Thursday.

Merulla isn't sure if the highway is any more unsafe than any other. But the city should always be reviewing it, he said.

Since the Red Hill parkway opened 10 years ago, staff say, there have been 201 collisions. Nineteen have involved crossing the median. Hastings and Smosarki are the first deaths.

But the city has fielded concerns from residents about the Red Hill and the Lincoln Alexander Parkway for years, said Gary Moore, director of engineering services. That's why, even before Merulla's motion, city staff have been reviewing the safety of a portion of the Linc.

Staff will come back with a report on Red Hill in the fall, Moore said. It will look at number of accidents, when they happen, weather conditions, hot spots and potential design considerations that could reduce collisions. Those could include reflectors, paint, lighting and guardrails, Moore said.

That would provide a little peace to Wilson and Léony deGraaf Hastings, Jordyn's step mother. They who just want to make sure no one else experiences what they have.

"We'd like to see improved lighting," said deGraaf Hastings. "We'd like to see guardrails down the middle of the median. Those two things would be huge improvements to the safety and the drivers." 

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