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Mom of highway victim lauds safety bill

Sandi Vega tends a makeshift memorial for her

Sandi Vega tends a makeshift memorial for her daughter Brittany Vega, 14, who was killed while crossing Sunrise Highway on her way to school. (April 26, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Sandi Vega, the Wantagh mother who championed pedestrian-safety legislation after her daughter was killed nine months ago as she crossed Sunrise Highway, celebrated passage of the Complete Streets measure Tuesday and urged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to sign it into law.

"It's all in his hands right now," she said Tuesday.

Vega, 35, gathered more than 4,000 signatures after her daughter, Brittany, 14, was fatally struck on Sept. 22 while walking to school. Though she said the legislature's passage of the bill was "wonderful," she cautioned that more work must be done to prevent pedestrian deaths.

"I'm not going to wake up one morning and see that all the streets are safe," she said. "It's going to be a long process."

When the bill is signed into law, New York will become the 26th state to adopt the Complete Streets policy, requiring that the design of major road projects take into account all users of the road, including people on foot, on bicycles and on buses.

The Complete Streets approach encourages safety features such as countdown crosswalk signals, pedestrian islands, landscaped medians, wide shoulders for cyclists and lanes that narrow on approach to intersections, causing cars to slow down.

New York's legislation calls for projects that receive federal and state funds to incorporate Complete Streets elements into their designs where appropriate.

Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick), the bill's Senate sponsor, spoke of Brittany Monday night after the legislation had passed both houses.

"Her mother has made it her life's mission to make sure this never happens again, and I agree," he said.

Sunrise Highway has repeatedly been listed among Long Island's deadliest roads for pedestrians by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit advocacy group that ranks the region's most dangerous roads each year. The highway in Suffolk has been listed among the metropolitan area's most dangerous roadways for pedestrians.

The intersection of Sunrise Highway and Wantagh Avenue had no countdown crosswalk signal to tell Brittany how long she had to cross seven lanes of traffic, or a pedestrian island to offer refuge if she ran out of time.

After Brittany's death, Fuschillo asked the state Department of Transportation to analyze the intersection. The DOT has not made public its analysis.

The DOT has installed countdown signals, improved sight lines and installed yield signs.

With Ted Phillips

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