Polk County finishing new sidewalk three years after student lost his life walking to school

Posted at 4:27 PM, Aug 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-08 18:47:57-04

It took three years and nearly $2 million, but finally the walk to school for some Polk County students is a lot safer.

Road crews are putting the finishing touches on more than a mile long section of sidewalk along Old Dixie Highway leading to Tenoroc High School.

Despite the Florida rain showers, workers are working around the clock, six days a week to get it done by the first day of school next week.

“This has been a long time,” said Anally Hernandez, who has been watching the progress closely.

Hernandez lost her brother, Enrique, on Old Dixie Highway back in August 2013.

Enrique was walking to school early before sunrise on the side of the road because there was no sidewalk.

The driver of a mini van didn’t see him until it was too late.

“He was my role model, and I’m almost 18,” she said. “What am I supposed to do? I don’t have my role model anymore.”

The Hernandez family stood up tall to the county, and so did the community.

“There was kind of public outcry for the need for sidewalks so the county commissioners opted to fund the three phases of the sidewalk,” said Bill Skelton with Polk County Roads and Drains.

It took three years, three phrases, and nearly $2 1/2 million, but the project is nearly over.

Hernandez is grateful for the county’s work to prevent another tragedy, but looking at the sidewalk also brings back some painful memories.

“My brother had to pass away for this to happen, and it’s just really hard,” she said.