Record Searchlight: Changes “living testament” to teens killed on Victor

As published on Redding.com on April 27, 2017 by Sean Longoria

Original article here.

Changes “living testament” to teens killed on Victor

Justin Schjoth aspired to a career as a counselor for troubled teens, his father said.

More than four years after his 18-year-old son’s death, Kenneth Schjoth welcomed news that work will begin Monday on the stretch of Victor Avenue where Justin died after being hit by two cars.

“It’s a sign of Justin still being with us and him doing what he wanted to do with his life, helping people,” Kenneth Schjoth said. “With this road being fixed it will be a living legacy for Justin.”

Construction crews will add a concrete path on the west side of the road, sharp corners and better crosswalk markings at two intersections with side streets, a concrete barrier for pedestrian safety on the west side of the bridge over Churn Creek as well as flashing lights and a median at Shelby Road in front of the park. Two of the more significant changes will be roundabouts on Victor at Galaxy Way and Marlene Avenue.

“We think that will make it — from a motorist, a pedestrian and bicyclist standpoint — a much safer corridor,” Redding Public Works Director Brian Crane said.

The city for years has sought to improve safety on the busy Redding road tucked in a residential neighborhood with nearby schools.

Justin Schjoth’s death marked the fourth time a teenager was struck by a car on the road, and he was the third to die in less than five years.

Kenneth Schjoth and Crystal McPherson, Justin’s Schjoth’s mother, sued the city in 2014, about two years after a similar case brought by the parents of Austin James Blake, a 16-year-old hit and killed April 21, 2011, after being struck by a southbound car on the bridge over Churn Creek.

The cases alleged the city was negligent, among things, in its design, maintenance and construction of the road, resulting in the creation of dangerous conditions on the road. They were settled out of court and dismissed in 2015, said Russ Reiner, who represented the Blakes, McPherson and Kenneth Schjoth.

Reiner also hired a third-party engineer to work with the city on crafting improvements, he said.

“When we were going through the litigation, members of the city met with the family members and I truly believe that had an impact on them and helped move this process along and finally get into fruition what’s going to happen this year,” Reiner said.  “I felt through that process that the city was willing to listen. It was a matter of ultimately obtaining funding.”

State-managed federal dollars are covering the full cost of the work, Crane said. Sunrise Excavating has a $1.7 million contract with the city.

Crews will be out from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. The city expects the improvements will be complete by October.

“These improvements will be a living testament to the lives of Austin and Justin and others that have been injured in this area,” Reiner said. “This will make it safer for other children going through this area so that other people don’t have to go through these catastrophic losses.”