August 28, 2000

Learning From the Past

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In the aftermath of the death of a Cornell University junior who was struck by a Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit bus, measures have been taken to prevent other tragedies on the campus roads.

Michelle Evans was struck and killed on the rainy afternoon of March 16 when a TCAT bus turned right from Thurston Avenue to Wait Avenue. Her family has since filed a lawsuit against TCAT bus driver Timothy T. Stranger, Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca and Cornell University.

Half of the Evans’ $4 million wrongful death lawsuit is related to claims that the University and the City of Ithaca allowed dangerous traffic to persist at the intersection of Thurston and Wait avenues.

Nelson Roth, associate University Council, would not comment on the lawsuit and noted only that the corner is owned by the city, not Cornell.

The other $2 million in damages include medical and funeral expenses and the “conscious pain and suffering and fear of impending death” Evans endured. The second part of the suit is being brought against TCAT, Stranger and Cornell University.

The most visible change over the summer was the reconstruction of the corner where the accident occurred. Last week, the roads were widened about three to four feet and the pavement replaced to make driving smoother.

“We pulled the curb back,” said Ray Benjamin, supervisor of streets for the city’s Engineering Office. “We have to do some blacktop work … but we’re waiting for Cornell students to settle in.”

Water absorbed by clay soil under the asphalt caused the upper surface to ripple or break under the weight of heavy traffic when the clay would expand and contract during winter freezing and thawing. “When that road was originally built, it wasn’t made to have buses on it,” Benjamin said.

The new pavement