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Massapequa parents demand child-safety zone

Tricia Winkler of Massapequa Park with her sons,

Tricia Winkler of Massapequa Park with her sons, Daniel, left, and, Matthew, attend a rally in support of Sunrise Highway a child safety zone to protect school children who have to cross the highway to get to school. (May 6, 2012) Credit: Heather Walsh

The deadly stretch of Sunrise Highway where Massapequa parents have called for the busing of students who otherwise must walk across the road is undergoing safety improvements, state Department of Transportation officials said.

But the DOT has stopped short of designating the area a child-safety zone, which residents said would encourage busing. DOT spokeswoman Jennifer Post said the designation is "a determination that the school district makes," a statement residents dispute.

"We have met with many people in the community, and we have agreed to make some engineering improvements," Post said Tuesday.

Gary Bennett, a Massapequa Board of Education trustee who has led a charge for the zone and the busing for about 80 high schoolers expected to cross Sunrise on foot, insisted the DOT must designate Sunrise a child-safety zone.

"When it comes to the safety of children, why are you balking?" he asked Thursday.

Post said signals in the area have been adjusted to give pedestrians more time to cross and more time to enter an intersection before vehicles turn right. The DOT also is considering holding a Governor's Traffic Safety Committee-hosted pedestrian safety assembly at Massapequa High School and increasing targeted law enforcement of traffic violators, she said.

The six-lane Sunrise has just 13 of 15 criteria points necessary to receive child-safety zone designation.

Bennett said the "arbitrary" scoring system should be revamped to take into account the three pedestrians killed on Sunrise in the past 18 months. Despite the DOT's safety improvements, "Kids still have to walk across the highway," he said.

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