West Miami-Dade

Service to honor motorists killed on Krome Avenue

Kailey Lopez, left, and Sophia Rodriguez make a memorial. A ceremony was held Saturday to remember those killed in collisions on Krome Avenue and lobby local and state officials to revamp the 37-mile stretch known to many as “Killer Krome.”
Kailey Lopez, left, and Sophia Rodriguez make a memorial. A ceremony was held Saturday to remember those killed in collisions on Krome Avenue and lobby local and state officials to revamp the 37-mile stretch known to many as “Killer Krome.” MIAMI HERALD STAFF

It’s a 37-mile stretch on the western edge of Miami-Dade County, where one lane going in each direction leaves little room for error. It’s lined with narrow shoulders, and in some patches, there is little to no lighting.

But Dolores Barreto’s son, Cory, had to take Krome Avenue. He was helping a friend install a water line to prep his property for agriculture, and Krome was the way to access the west-edge property.

As he was heading home in the passenger seat of a friend’s car, the vehicle collided head-on with a truck going in the opposite direction. He and the driver were killed.

"He hadn’t even gotten his driver’s license," Barreto said.

A little over a decade later, the story repeats itself — two young men on Krome Avenue are struck head-on by a vehicle going in the opposite direction. This time it’s Rita Rodriguez’s son, Anthony, who was killed in January on his way home from a bonfire.

Both of their names, and dozens of others, will be read alongside Krome Avenue during a memorial event Saturday to remember their lives and call for improvements to the road where this year at least 11 people have died.

Krome Avenue is notorious; for years, Miamians have talked about avoiding the road when they can.

"People call it ‘Killer Krome,’ ‘Deadly Krome,’” said Mike Arias, a road safety advocate. "Those are all very appropriate."

Many times accidents result from drivers traveling on Krome at high speeds, or trying to make improper passes. But Arias believes that making changes to the roadway could bolster safety.

An online petition to add lighting and widen the lanes has gotten more than 10,000 signatures.

"Krome is a very dangerous road. People travel at high speeds and it has narrow roads and poor lighting," Jamie Gonzalez wrote in the petition’s comments.

"Driving on this road has always scared me," Ana Sanchez wrote. "This should have been done years ago."

To this end, Rodriguez created Lost Lives of Krome Avenue this year, a nonprofit to lobby public officials on the issue. Pleas to revamp the 60-year-old roadway, however, go back years.

Barreto became involved in efforts to expand the road — adding a lane on each side — when her son died more than a decade ago. The expansion was approved, but not fast enough for Rodriguez’s son. Now she is also calling for the project to be fast-tracked and for other features to become part of the plan: adding guardrails, more lighting and a concrete median that would force vehicles to stay in their lanes.

"It’s something that we looked into many years ago. It’s always been a very, very dangerous highway," said Barreto, who has seen as many as five memorial markers surrounding her son’s, which marks the area where he died. "I’ve been pushed off the road while visiting my son’s marker."

Harold Desdunes — who leads development for the Florida Department of Transportation’s District 6 and is working on this project locally — said that the department is working to fast-track the expansion. Right now, a few environmental studies are stalling the design phase.

"Even thought it’s taking longer than people would want, all the projects are in different working phases," Desdunes said. "We are doing what we can to accelerate all the projects, but it’s a step-by-step process."

The DOT also recently introduced a safe-driving campaign to curtail accidents because of aggressive driving.

"We can reduce crashes if we all take responsibility on the roadway and avoid aggressive driving behaviors," Florida Highway Patrol Maj. Sammie Thomas Jr. said. The FHP has also increased patrol presence on Krome.

Desdunes also listed smaller, interim additions that drivers can expect to see on Krome soon — speed feedback signs, renewed pavement markings, lighting at five intersections and chevron signs at curves, among others. Their plans also include mortality signs at three locations on the corridor.

As for the other requests, Arias acknowledges it’ll be an uphill climb — some roadside businesses in the area are concerned about how a concrete median will affect their businesses because drivers won’t be able to pull off the road as easily, and environmentalists are concerned about how new lighting will impact wildlife.

"We are looking for a way to make it a win-win for everybody," Arias said. "We are not going to stop."

The Saturday gathering, which also includes a safety expo, will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the northwest corner of Southwest 136th Street and Krome Avenue.

At the event, mourners hope to lobby public officials with their requests.

One by one, at least 115 names will be read to "strike a chord with the powers that be," Barreto said.

Rodriguez said that family members and friends can contact her at 786-587-9214 if they want to add the name of a loved one to that list. Eventually, she hopes the names will become part of a roadside memorial, "so when people drive by, they drive a little slower, a little more carefully," Rodriguez said.

"I want Krome to be a road where we can drive and enjoy the view of the Everglades, not hear, ‘Oh, I don’t take Krome.’”