Friends of a woman killed in a crash Tuesday will carry on her petition to build a pedestrian overpass on Mesa Street at Cincinnati Avenue, where four people have been killed in the past four years.

"Christy was a really good friend. I want that (project) finished for her because it was her passion," Monica Bustamante said about Laura Cristina Velarde. "She had a passion for life. She was the most lively person I had ever met. She was always happy and always bubbly.

"I know that this is what she would have wanted. She wanted to save lives. This is our way of making her me mory live on."

Velarde, 24, of the 11700 block of Fred Perry, was killed instantly Tuesday when her SUV struck a metal utility pole on Mon toya Drive near Clayton Road.

Police said Velarde was driving a 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee north on Montoya Drive about 12:40 a.m. when she lost control of the SUV after failing to negotiate a curve.

The SUV slid sideways and struck the utility pole. Investigators suspect that speed contributed to the crash.

The night of the crash, Velarde had been gathering signatures on a petition to try to persuade City Council to build a pedestrian overpass on Mesa Street at the Cincinnati Avenue intersection.

Bustamante said she was aware of Velarde's petition effort for an overpass but didn't volunteer to collect signatures until after learning about Velarde's death.

Veronica Meeker, who began the petition drive with Velarde, said many people who have learned about Velarde's death contacted her Wednesday seeking to help with the petition drive.

As of Wednesday afternoon, about 3,000 people had signed the petition. Meeker said the plan was to present the city 5,000 signatures.

Meeker said Velarde came up with the idea to build support for a pedestrian overpass after the March 14 deaths of two people struck by a pickup as they walked in a crosswalk at the intersection.

Meeker said they didn't know the victims but still wanted to make the intersection safer "because there have been four deaths there in four years --Êthat's ridiculous."

"We were sick of it," she said.

Visitation for Velarde will be from 2 to 9 p.m. today at Crest view Funeral Home, 1462 N. Zaragoza, including a rosary at 7 p.m.

Funeral Mass will be at 2:15 p.m. Friday at St. Raphael Parish, 2301 Zanzibar. Burial will follow at Ever green East Cemetery at 12400 Montana.


Tammy Fonce-Olivas may be reached at; 546-6362.