Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Monday a $110 million initiative to make streets safer for pedestrians across the state, including projects in Nassau and Suffolk counties, which have some of the highest pedestrian crash rates in the state.
“Pedestrian safety is of critical importance all over the state,” state Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Holmes said Monday. “Particularly on Long Island where there’s been a lot of crashes.”
Holmes said it’s too soon to say how much of the funding for the five-year Pedestrian Safety Action Plan will come to Long Island. The initiative — which excludes New York City — is just now getting underway.
However, the region’s portion could be substantial because Nassau and Suffolk counties ranked first and third in the state, respectively, for pedestrian crashes from 2009 to 2013, according to the action plan.
Nassau County had 4,420 pedestrian crashes and Suffolk County had 2,340 during the five-year period. Together, Long Island’s 6,760 pedestrian crashes accounted for 28.5 percent of the 23,722 statewide, excluding New York City.
In the first phase, officials will identify the major state road intersections that pose the most danger to pedestrians, Holmes said. Then they will find engineering and other solutions to make those junctions more safe for walkers.
Engineering solutions include retiming traffic signals; adding or upgrading crosswalks for maximum visibility; restricting parking near intersections; installing pedestrian signals; and adding new signs prohibiting right turns on red or requiring cars to yield to pedestrians.
In phase two, the effort will shift to local communities, where the need is greatest. Municipalities will need to apply for the state funds to benefit from the initiative.
The governor’s plan also includes a ranking of the 20 local communities outside of New York City with the most pedestrian crashes. Eight were on Long Island, with Hempstead at the top of the list, accounting for 2,139 of the crashes. Brookhaven, Islip, Oyster Bay, North Hempstead, Babylon, Huntington and Freeport also made the list.
The majority — 90 percent — of the initiative will be funded through a federal highway program, with the state covering the balance as part of the new five-year transportation plan in the state budget.
Overall, the initiative’s funding will go toward engineering, education and enforcement, according to the action plan.
In addition to improving infrastructure, Holmes said officials want to educate drivers and pedestrians on the laws, and then ensure those laws are enforced.
“No longer can we engineer our way out of the problem,” Holmes said. “It’s really a goal to change the behavior of both the pedestrian and the driver.”