Sandi Vega tends a makeshift memorial for her daughter Brittany...

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) Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Fourteen-year-old Brittany Vega decided to walk to school in Wantagh one September morning, across six-lane Sunrise Highway.

She didn't make it to the other side.

Now her mother, Sandi Vega, is pushing for state legislation to design roads that are safer for cyclists, bus riders and pedestrians.

Vega is supporting a "Complete Streets" transportation bill -- which encourages such safety features as pedestrian countdown signals, landscaped medians and pedestrian islands -- that was introduced Wednesday by Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick), chairman of the Senate's transportation committee.

So far, 25 states, including Vermont, have enacted legislation or adopted the Complete Streets transportation policy into law, said Stefanie Seskin of the nonprofit National Complete Streets Coalition.

Fuschillo's bill -- co-sponsored by Sen. Martin Dilan (D-Brooklyn) -- requires that designers of major road construction or reconstruction projects consider all users and include features that improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

The New York law would apply to road projects that receive state and federal funding, and already go through an extensive design process, lawmakers and advocates of the bill said.

Sunrise Highway, repeatedly listed by the nonprofit transit advocacy group Tri-State Transportation Campaign as one of the most dangerous roads in the region for pedestrians, had no countdown signal when Brittany tried to cross, and still has no pedestrian island.

Brittany wasn't allowed to cross Sunrise because it was too dangerous, the traffic too heavy and fast, her parents told her.

"When you're in a car, you have some protection, but when you're pedestrian, you have nothing," said Sandi Vega, 35, standing at the intersection where her daughter was killed and where now a utility pole is wrapped in plastic sunflowers, lilies and teddy bears.

At Fuschillo's request, the state Department of Transportation, which owns and maintains the highway, made safety improvements last fall at the intersection of Sunrise Highway and Wantagh Avenue, including parking restrictions, yield-to-pedestrian signs and countdown signals telling pedestrians exactly how much time they have to cross.

The changes cost $6,814, most of which was covered by federal stimulus funds, DOT spokeswoman Eileen Peters said. The DOT did not respond to a question about why it had not made safety improvements to the intersection before Brittany's death.

Sandi Vega, working with Tri-State, has gathered more than 4,000 signatures for her petition supporting Complete Streets legislation.

Advocates acknowledge that change will come slowly, as roads are rebuilt.

But on Long Island, it already has begun. The DOT has incorporated Complete Streets principles into projects for the past several years, including two projects in Great Neck Plaza, where a redesigned roundabout on Barstow Road and landscaped medians on Great Neck Road reduce the speed of cars as they approach intersections and offer pedestrians more refuge as they cross.

Melinda Katz, a Great Neck Plaza resident in her 70s carrying groceries to her apartment one recent afternoon, stepped across a redesigned crosswalk on Great Neck Road west of South Middle Road. "It wasn't safe before," she said. "They used to just go, you know, even if they see you cross. Now they stop. I feel safer."

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