Rep. Israel urges law to make Route 25, other roads safer
Rep. Steve Israel Tuesday called for legislation requiring that states make streets safer to get federal dollars after a watchdog group deemed a Long Island road the region's most dangerous for pedestrians.
Earlier this month, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign said 16 people had been killed between 2010 and 2012 in Suffolk County on State Route 25, known in most communities as either Jericho Turnpike or Middle Country Road, placing it atop the nonprofit's list.
Israel (D-Huntington) signed on as a co-sponsor Tuesday to the Safe Streets Act of 2013, which would require states to implement policies to ensure new transportation projects using federal dollars accommodate all users -- including pedestrians and bicyclists. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx would help state and metropolitan planning groups develop so-called Complete Streets safety standards.
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) introduced the bill in June. It was then referred to the House subcommittee on highways and transit. Israel said Jericho Turnpike unites his district, which stretches from White-stone through Nassau and Suffolk counties.
"I want my congressional district to be known for its history, for its environment, for the Long Island Sound, for its schools -- not for having the most dangerous road in the tri-state area for pedestrians," he said at a Nassau police precinct on Route 25 in Woodbury.
Sandy Cutrone, whose son was told by a Suffolk lawmaker that no one should ride a bicycle or motorcycle in the county after she was struck by a van on Montauk Highway in Babylon Village while biking, joined Israel.
"Suffolk County is a suburban automobile community -- drivers expect to see other drivers on the road, not bicyclists and motorcyclists," Legis. Thomas F. Barraga (R-West Islip) responded in January to Cutrone's 17-year-old son, who wrote to Barraga suggesting safety measures as part of a class.
Cutrone said: "Kids are going to walk to school. Kids are going to ride their bicycles to school. People are going to run . . . "
Israel said Barraga "actually helped educate people about this issue" but that the proposal "is not in any way, shape or form aimed at legislator Barraga" but at making streets safer.
Through a spokeswoman, Israel declined to comment on Barraga's letter.
Tri-State executive director Veronica Vanterpool said improvements could range from road signs to crosswalks.
She said Nassau and Suffolk counties and communities have adopted Complete Streets policies, but they apply to local and county roads.
The nonprofit looked at pedestrian deaths on state, county, and local roads in downstate New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
The analysis does not weigh the roads by traffic volume and didn't factor in roads such as interstates where pedestrians are not allowed.
Route 25 has consistently been among the region's most dangerous roads, but this is the first time it has topped the list.