Xander’s Crossing Opens in Memory of Toddler Who Died on Tracks

A tearful Nicole Wilson was among the first to cross a new pedestrian bridge that would have saved her 2-year-old son’s life.

Elijah Arriaga, 11, cuts the ceremonial ribbon to officially open his brother’s bridge.

“I feel his presence,” she said, as photographers and TV cameras captured her image and relatives and friends consoled her. “I feel him here now.”

]In November and in the care of a babysitter, Alexander Arriaga was struck by a train as he crossed the railroad tracks near Blossom Hill and Monterey roads. He wasn’t the only fatality on the shortcut residents took on their way to shopping or school. But Alexander’s death was the tragedy that spurred funding for completion of the $10.5 million project.

Called “Xander’s Crossing,” the 315-foot long steel cherry-colored bridge for bicyclists and pedestrians was officially opened on Friday, September 28, with remarks from San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra, former Councilman Forrest Williams, Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman, Valley Transportation Authority General Manager Michael Burns and Wilson.

Xander’s Crossing features cherry blossom design by artist Vicky Scuri.

“This bridge is the only good and positive thing that came out of this nightmare for us,” said Wilson, who now lives in Fresno. “Thanks for keeping his memory alive.”

Wilson’s son Elijah, Xander’s brother, cut the purple ribbon crossing the bridge entrance, and a flood of friends and family, community members and media walked with Wilson to celebrate the structure that will provide a safe passage to residents.

Nicole Wilson, right crosses bridge with Zander’s aunt, Julie Sanchez.

Officials and Wilson sent a strong message to the public to use the bridge. A fence now blocks the shortcut across the train tracks, but some worry it won’t belong before someone tries to cut a hole in the fence to take a shortcut.

“Tell them to use that bridge,” Wasserman said in asking residents to spread the word. “I don’t want to see a section of that fence taken out. I don’t want another tragedy.”

Said Wilson, “They have a choice to cross the bridge. He didn’t’ have a choice. “