Neighbors want sidewalks in wake of girls' death - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Neighbors want sidewalks in wake of girls' death

Danielle James Danielle James
Johna and LeeAnn James Johna and LeeAnn James

During daylight hours, vehicles have to swerve to avoid hitting pedestrians on Thompson Road near Kollman on the southwest side. But at night, with low light, seeing anyone is difficult.

Tuesday night, police say, a driver did not see 10-year-old Danielle James.

"They had just gotten done eating dinner and she was walking her friend home like she does all the time - and didn't make it back," said Johna James, Danielle's father.

The driver stopped immediately. He was checked for drugs and alcohol as a matter of protocol, but neither was suspected or detected.

"It was an accident. It was pure accident. I don't blame the driver. He didn't see," said James.

The problem in the neighborhood is clear: the roadways are narrow to begin with. Add snow to either side and there is literally no place to walk except for the asphalt itself.

Indianapolis has spent $16 million to install 17 miles of new sidewalks and curbs and repair nearly 100 miles of sidewalks and curbs over the past three years as part of the Rebuild Indy program. But this southwest side neighborhood is not on the list for improvements. The Department of Public Works uses a number of criteria for improvements including population in the area and requests from City-County Council members.

"Sidewalks would definitely help," said neighbor Jessica Nixon. "We're getting more and more kids in the area. I think if they put some lights down the road would help, too."

"We're young, so we're going to walk to our friend's house because we can't drive yet," explained LeeAnn James, Danielle's older sister. "You just have to [walk on the road]."

But it's something Danielle's father now warns against. It's a danger he knows too well with his own painful proof.

"One of the happiest kids I ever met," he said of Danielle. "She just brought joy to everyone around her."

City officials say there is no question Indianapolis is in need of more sidewalks but to install them along all major roads would cost $350 million, according to city officials.

As for the lighting, there are street lights at each intersection but there are no plans to add to that.

Danielle James would have turned 11 in just three weeks.

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