Vigil held for crash victims at Parrish intersection

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People in Manatee County are pushing for changes at a dangerous intersection. Neighbors want a traffic light, but transportation officials have another solution.

During rush hour, people who live in Parrish say the intersection of US 301 and County Road 675 is like the wild west.

“You’re just trying to get across the intersection, you’re trying to avoid getting hit or hitting somebody,” said Gretchen Fowler, Parrish Civic Association President. “Most of the people who know the intersection avoid it.”

Locals say the mix of big trucks, blind spots, and people driving faster than the 45-mile-per-hour speed limit makes it dangerous for drivers.

According to data from FDOT, there have been 38 wrecks at the intersection since 2014, and three of the last nine were fatal. 

22-year-old Ashley Rhodes was killed last June while driving home.

“She just graduated veterinary technician school and she had her whole career ahead of her,” Dr. Terry Clekis, co-owner of the North River Animal Hospital said.  She left work at 6:30 and she was dead at 6:35 right there.”

Three weeks ago there was another wreck. This time an alleged drunk driver plowed into Dr. Kenneth Bauer. The 54-year-old was a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at LECOM School of Pharmacy in Bradenton.

“Ken was one of the most positive, uplifting, impactful educators in our community,” said colleague Dr. Victoria Reinhartz.

Tuesday night, about 100 people came together for a vigil in their memory. They lit candles on the side of the road, pushing through the pain to shed light on how critical they believe it is to take action at the intersection., especially with so much growth happening in the small town.

“We’ve got three schools coming. We’ve got 10,000 plus homes, we’ve got retail, and it’s just going to add to the traffic that’s gonna be coming through here,” Fowler said.

They want a four-way traffic signal installed, but transportation officials say there aren’t enough vehicles on the roadways to warrant that. 

Instead, FDOT plans to install a signalized green T intersection. A median will prevent drivers from crossing over U.S. 301. Construction on that project should start in late 2020 or early 2021.

Many people told FOX 13 News they believe FDOT’s solution will only be a short-term fix, and they vow to keep fighting to make the intersection safe.