Officials announce bill to make streets safer for pedestrians
Sandi Lee Vega of Wantagh thinks Sunrise Highway is, like many other Long Island thoroughfares, a hazard to a pedestrian's health.
Vega should know: Her daughter, Brittany, 14, was struck by a car and killed when she tried to traverse the busy highway September 2010.
On Monday, Vega, who has supported measures to improve road safety since her daughter's death, lent her voice to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has written legislation that could funnel federal dollars into Long Island communities to help make the area's roads -- some of which are listed among the most dangerous in the state -- safer for walkers and bikers.
"Brittany made a decision to walk to school against my knowledge," she said as Gillibrand, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray looked on during a news conference in Eisenhower Park in East Meadow. "Although I did not want her to cross Sunrise Highway, she should have been able to cross safely with the knowledge that she would arrive on the other side alive."
Gillibrand used the backdrop of busy Hempstead Turnpike, which a Tri-State Transportation Commission report said is among the most dangerous roads in the state, to announce the Pedestrian Safety Act of 2014.
The legislation would steer federal dollars into local pedestrian safety projects. The state Department of Motor Vehicles has said that in 2012 there were 39 fatalities and nearly 1,000 injuries on Nassau's main roads, including Hempstead Turnpike.
"Pedestrian crashes are one of the leading causes of injury and deaths in New York amongst kids," Gillibrand said Monday to kick off the news conference. "Long Island families have suffered grave pain and loss as a result of these preventable accidents. We have to do much more . . . Under my bill, localities will have greater flexibility to use the federal funding for pedestrian safety projects to help reduce the number of deaths and injuries."
She said the measure would fully find the local projects.
The improvements could include features such as traffic crosswalk signals, pedestrian hybrid beacons, pedestrian sidewalk and crossing islands and countdown pedestrian signaling.
"We certainly support your legislation that will provide not only dollars to improve our roadways but also provide for education and awareness," said Mangano, adding that Nassau has a Complete Streets program that has pedestrian and cyclist safety features already installed at key arteries in the county, including Merrick Avenue, which forms part of the perimeter of Eisenhower Park.Catherine Blotiau, Nassau Coordinator of Safe Kids said the organization is "encouraged to see legislation that will support our education efforts and keep our child pedestrians safe."
Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander said, "Design solutions and the resources in this case from the federal government can really remake our roadways and have the amenities we need for a safer Long Island experience."