WASHINGTON DC — Former South Bend Mayor turned U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, announced a plan last week to make the country’s roads safer for people of color and pedestrians. And, as he is raked over the coals by people claiming his plan will negatively impact people of color, REAL News Michiana is showing how his last plan as Mayor ended in the death of a pedestrian who was also a child of color.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s keystone traffic initiative during his tenure as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, led to the death of an 11-year-old boy. REAL News Michiana uncovered records nearly a year ago, showing major concerns about the safety of the project, specifically the area where the 11-year-old was killed, 9 months prior to the tragedy.
“We always look back in hindsight, but as of now I’ve seen no indication that tells us for certain that anything related to traffic engineering could have or would have changed what happened. We just don’t know.” Mayor Pete said during a news conference shortly after the accident, according to a South Bend Tribune article from the time.
However, records from the months leading up to the child’s death and reports from his own party, show Buttigieg had been warned about the safety concerns.
“(Buttigieg) knew absolutely.” Democrat Common Council Member, Henry Davis Jr. said. “There were a number of community meetings where he attended or someone from his staff attended. Not to mention the council meetings.”
On January 23, 2017, 11-year-old Tristan Moore was walking to the Transpo bus station with his little brother, to catch their bus to school. It was around 7:00am, still dark. A truck hit and killed Moore at the intersection of Michigan and South Streets as he was crossing the road. The traffic light at the intersection had been deactivated and was deemed non-essential for Mayor Pete’s “Smart Streets” project. The project turned all of Downtown South Bend’s one-way streets into two-way streets. The project also added bike lanes and called for the elimination of several traffic signals. There were no active pedestrian signals at the time either.
“(Buttigieg) was warned about some of the challenges that it may present.” Davis Jr. said to REAL News Michiana. “It’s impossible he didn’t know.”
RNM discovered documentation showing city officials expressing concern over the project as early as April of 2016. During a Public Works committee meeting on April 11th, Councilman Davis specifically brought up the safety of pedestrians near the bus station.
The minutes from that meeting contain the following: “Councilman Davis asked a question pertaining to pedestrian access near traffic light at South Street and Main Street at the Transpo station. The removal of the stoplight has caused safety concerns for pedestrians near the Transpo station. Councilman Davis asked what can be done about the issue.”
Davis was told by Buttigieg’s Deputy Director of Public Works, that the administration’s department was already aware of the concerns and they would be revisited. 11-year-old Moore was killed a little more than 9 months later. Traffic lights have since been added.
RNM reached out to Buttigieg’s camp to see if he stands by his comments he made shortly after Moore’s death. We never received a reply comment.
On top of the tragedy involving Moore, Davis said the “Smart Streets” project hasn’t panned out as Buttigieg planned.
“I was concerned about a number of things. Commerce. Commerce couldn’t efficiently flow through the city. If you slow or confused traffic, you stop commerce. You can’t just stop traffic.” He said. “People in these (cabinet) positions need to have a track record of success… I know we spent a lot of money. We hope for success. We haven’t experienced that.”
Davis’ sentiments fly in the face of more of Buttigieg’s comments to the media made the day after Moore’s death.
“What we know is when you calm down traffic, you have an economically healthier downtown and a safer environment over all. But, that doesn’t mean it’s the end of traffic accidents. It doesn’t mean that it’s the end of traffic fatalities, and yesterday morning, two little boys ran across the street and one of them didn’t make it.” Buttigieg said, according to an article from the South Bend Tribune from the time.
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