Ava and Olivia Adams-Marsh were the first Houstonians to use the hybrid pedestrian beacon at the intersection of North Shepherd Drive and 10th Street, which was turned on Monday afternoon. The sisters pressed a button connected to the crosswalk signal on the east side of Shepherd, which activated a red light that prompted drivers to stop and allowed the young girls to safely cross the busy street in the Heights.
Had the traffic signal been installed three months beforehand, their mother might still be alive.
Lesha Adams died the night of March 30, when she stopped to help wheelchair-bound Jesse Perez cross Shepherd just south of that intersection and both were struck and killed by a car driven by 20-year-old Jada Mimms, who later was arrested and charged with failing to stop and render aid involving death.
City of Houston leaders responded to the tragedy by making a series of changes and improvements to the area, which were unveiled Monday. Mayor Sylvester Turner switched on the hybrid pedestrian beacon immediately before the Adams-Marsh sisters, who were joined by Perez’s brother, Dennis, put it to use for the first time.
“I am quite thankful for this to be here now,” Olivia Adams-Marsh, 13, said. “I don’t want anyone else to go through what our family went through, because it was horrible.”
Turner, who proclaimed Monday “Lesha Adams Day” in honor of the longtime Timbergrove resident, vowed to improve safety on that stretch of Shepherd during an April 11 news conference held at the same site as Monday’s gathering. Not quite two months later, his vision had been executed.
Along with installing the hybrid pedestrian beacon, Houston Public Works repainted the white crosswalk lines on Shepherd and added crosswalk signals and signs on both sides of the street. New wheelchair-accessible ramps also were constructed, and the sidewalk on the east side of Shepherd was widened to also accommodate the METRO bus stop at the intersection.
METRO chairperson Carrin Patman said the bus stop a little bit to the south, which Jesse Perez was trying to reach when Adams spotted him trying to wheel across Shepherd, was removed shortly after their deaths.
Carol Haddock, director of the public works department, said construction at Shepherd and 10th took about four weeks.
“Government sometimes doesn’t work fast,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said. “But I think in this instance, you each set a standard.”
Dennis Perez, whose brother lived in the Heights area, said the changes were a long time coming. And like Adams’ relatives, he was glad to see them.
In honor of Adams, 55, and Jesse Perez, 63, Turner announced Monday that more changes are coming. He said Houston will adopt the multi-national “Vision Zero” initiative by way of an executive order.
Turner described Vision Zero as a “comprehensive strategy which reframes the way we think about street safety,” with the goal of drastically reducing or eliminating traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2030.
Hearing about Turner’s vision and seeing the improvements that already have been made provided some comfort to the victims’ families, who are still grieving.
“Of course, I wish that it hadn’t taken something like this to make this street safer,” said Stefanie Marsh, Adams’ widow. “But I would say that Lesha would be very pleased that something has happened so quickly.
“And it didn’t happen in vain,” Marsh added. “She’s continuing to make a difference and help people like she did before.”