In an effort to halt the rising number of crashes, injuries and deaths on Long Island roads, Vision Long Island and the Complete Streets Coalition of 35 community leaders are calling on government transportation agencies to use millions of dollars available through the federal infrastructure bill to make Long Island roads safer. NewsdayTV's Drew Scott reports. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez, James Staubitser, Debbie Egan-Chin

Infrastructure improvements such as street lighting, crosswalks and sidewalks can go a long way toward protecting Long Island pedestrians and cyclists from the dangers of the roads, community leaders and traffic safety advocates said Saturday, while recommending a broader road safety plan to address rising crash-related fatalities.

Eric Alexander, the director of Vision Long Island, a nonprofit downtown planning group, said that following a recent spate of deadly car crashes, state and local officials must consider new roadway, biking and pedestrian designs as important tools to reduce speed, historically a leading cause of fatal collisions.

Ten safety recommendations were outlined in a plan the group released as it urged state, county and local governments to tap into federal infrastructure funding.

“It’s really a question about are we focused on this ... it’s up to the state and the department of public works of various government agencies to draw the money down and match what the communities need and where the hotspots are,” Alexander said.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Infrastructure improvements can go a long way toward protecting pedestrians and cyclists from the dangers of the roads, advocates said Saturday, while recommending a broader road safety plan to address rising crash-related fatalities.
  • Vision Long Island, a nonprofit downtown planning group, outlined safety recommendations as it urged state, county and local governments to tap into federal infrastructure funding.

  • At least nine people have died in crashes on Long Island in the past week.

At least nine people have died in crashes on Long Island in the past week.

There have been more than 40 successful projects on the Island in the past two decades that incorporate a safe-systems approach with an emphasis on protecting cyclists, pedestrians and disabled people who are considered vulnerable targets on the street, Alexander said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has made designing safer roads and working with local governments a key part of its strategy to combat traffic deaths.

Prioritizing people on foot and on bike, and narrowing wide travel lanes on roads that have less than a 45 mph speed limit, were among the recommendations Vision Long Island released.

Where measures have worked

Alexander didn’t have crash statistics available, but he pointed to three areas on the Island that are safer since design elements were implemented: in Patchogue, a roundabout added to Lake Street; in Huntington Village, a roundabout installed on Gerard Street; and in Wyandanch, a section of Straight Path that was cut to two lanes from four. Roundabouts have been proven to reduce the severity of crashes, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

But not all design adjustments require a big overhaul. Traffic safety advocates said there can be quick fixes, such as using paint to mark crosswalks, or adding planters, bollards and greenery to calm traffic. Making lower-cost improvements is another recommendation Vision Long Island released.

Community leaders echoed Alexander’s concerns while standing in a parking lot along Route 110, near Church Street, in Huntington Station. A wooden cross nearby marked the death of a pedestrian who was struck while crossing Route 110 last year.

Clariona Griffith, a Hempstead Village trustee, said there needs to be safer streets for children, senior citizens and other vulnerable populations who are forced to trek through wide streets in her village. Extending curbs is one way to shorten a pedestrian’s crossing distance and limit their exposure to vehicles on the roadway, traffic safety advocates have said. 

“This is important because it’s one of the biggest problems that we face in our community as well,” Griffith added.

'Everybody has to pull together'

Debbie Cavanagh, president of the Central Islip Coalition of Good Neighbors, said sections of her neighborhood have deteriorating sidewalks, and pedestrian countdown signals don't allow for enough time to safely get across.

“The sidewalks along Carleton Avenue are crumbling,” she said, specifying it's the stretch leading up to the senior center and the recreation center.

“There are also senior citizens on Suffolk Avenue who don’t have enough time to cross,” she said. "They need to be extended." 

Huntington resident Nina Marsden was stopping to visit the nearby memorial for her friend Cristino Melendez, who was fatally struck by a car on April 14 of last year. 

"There are just so many pedestrians hit and nobody is doing the speed limit," Marsden said while calling for action. "My friend died right there while bringing back dinner and no charges were filed against the driver." 

While traffic safety advocates acknowledged that police enforcement also can help deter drunken and impaired driving, they noted that design changes to reduce speed have been proven to save lives and should not be overlooked.

“This is an Islandwide crisis and everybody has to pull together,” Alexander said.

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