City leaders were warned someone could die if action wasn’t taken at scene of fatal bridge accident

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ST. LOUIS – For years, there were questions about a concrete bridge railing that fell earlier this week, crushing a woman driving beneath. Now the St. Louis leader tasked with making sure roads and bridges are safe is discussing why those changes weren't made.

Questions about the bridge’s safety come from a concerned resident, who warned last year that someone could die if the city did not begin traffic calming measures at the Lindell overpass.

“The data is there,” said Chris Sommers. “The accidents were there. The accidents with injuries were there, and so this was tragic, but it was preventable and predictable.”

Sommers said he warned city leaders about the Lindell bridge at Union after a crash knocked out part of another railing on the opposite side. He wrote out specific traffic calming ideas and warned, “Let’s do it now and not wait until someone is killed.”

“If the guardrails are not in a condition or not designed to withstand a high rate of speed, you’ve got to slow down the speed and there are ways to do that,” he said.

On Monday, a car knocked out a railing, killing Jan Mokwa, who was driving below on Forest Park Parkway.

St. Louis Board of Public Service President Rich Bradley said the overpass bridge, constructed in 1961, was not built for the speed at which the motorist struck the rail on Monday.

“I would say when you look at this thing -- when you design and engineer items, you design and engineer them for proper use by the general public,” Bradley said.

But why didn’t the city respond to Sommers’ warning to slow speeds there?

“So, again, there are conversations about what could happen out there,” Bradley said. “I think you know there’s a due process that has to happen before we go out and install things.” Jersey barriers now cover the opening at the bridge, along with the growing memorial for Janet Mokwa. Inspection reports going back nearly a decade said that the bridge railing “does not meet acceptable standards,” however, the reports also said there’s “no need to reduce speed.”

Sommers said the speed data at that location is clear that speed did need to be reduced. Fox 2/KPLR 11 has requested that data and we will follow up when we get it.

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