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Denver designing pedestrian safety improvements in area where boy was killed in hit-and-run on New Year's Eve

Wider sidewalks, more traffic signals are being considered
Posted at 11:25 PM, Jan 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 12:59:27-05

DENVER — Major safety improvements are in the works for the Morrison Road corridor, where a 3-year-old boy was killed on New Year's Eve in a hit-and-run crash.

Sage Antone and his father, Armando Antone, were walking home from a store around 6:30 p.m. and as they were crossing S. Lowell Boulevard, just south of Morrison Road, the driver of a southbound Chevy pickup struck the child.

The driver didn't stop, but was later found. Police identified the suspect as 23-year-old Jordan Montiel-Velazquez.

"I'm lost without him and I'm going to miss him," Armando said.

The hit-and-run crash is shining a spotlight on traffic and pedestrian safety.

"It's not good," said District 3 City Councilwoman Jamie Torres. "It's one of the things that residents in that area have been rightly complaining about for years."

Torres said she learned about the fatality early Friday morning.

"I get chills thinking about it and what this family must be going through right now," she said.

Torres said planning is underway for improvements.

"Wider sidewalks, a curb lawn, a lawn that actually separates the sidewalk from the road, and in this particular area, because space is such a limitation, we're moving the bike lanes (to other streets)," she said.

Torres said many residents don't feel safe walking around.

When asked if there are more pedestrians in that neighborhood because of the cost of owning a car, Torres said she thinks there always has been.

"You're right by a market," she explained. "We have a panaderia. You're not far from bus lines, so I think we have typically been a pedestrian-heavy district. What we haven't been is a pedestrian-friendly district, where we have good sidewalks, wide sidewalks, protection from street lanes. All those things, we've got to build."

Torres added that the Morrison Road corridor doesn't have appropriate signals, or crosswalks, and that speeding is a growing issue.

She said the money to pay for the design work is coming from a bond issue approved by voters.

Residents will be asked to weigh in on the design project, she said.

When asked what improvements she'd like to see, Alyssa Sena, Sage's older sister, said, "Maybe a light ... something that makes people stop."

Robert "Camacho" Hernandez stopped by the growing roadside memorial Sunday evening.

He said he'd like to see some safety signs.

"'Caution,' 'Kids crossing,'" he said as examples of what the signs could say. "There's all kinds of kids that live in this neighborhood."

Councilwoman Torres said signs are one of the immediate things that can be done.

"We just purchases some yard signs from the Denver Streets Partnership, advising cars to slow down," she said. "We've got those to distribute."

She added that the city may ask the partnership to design some in Spanish, since the neighborhood has a heavy Latino population.

Torres also said there are some immediate things that can be done to improve visibility, where it's hard to see around certain corners.

Those planned improvements come a little too late for the Antone family, which is still grappling with a huge loss.

Sena, who stopped briefly at the roadside memorial for her brother, became emotional when asked if she had anything to say to the community at-large.

"Just remember to always give whoever you love that last hug, because in the blink of an eye, like my dad said, someone or something could be taken away from you, in just a second," she said.

Police say Montiel-Velazquez is currently being held for investigation of leaving the scene of a crash.