The Eagle Avenue overpass along the Southern State Parkway, in 2020.

The Eagle Avenue overpass along the Southern State Parkway, in 2020. Credit: Johnny Milano

Proposed legislation would clear the way for new safety measures — including speed cameras and increased police enforcement — along the Southern State Parkway.

The 25.5-mile parkway, where a 17-year-old high school student most recently died, could be designated “a highway safety corridor,” under legislation proposed by Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont).

This would allow state agencies and law enforcement to fast-track possible remedies, including increased enforcement, doubling of fines, adding more traffic signs and speed cameras. There were 229 people killed on the Southern State from 2002 to 2021.

“Every person should be able to arrive to their destination in a safe manner. And we have to ensure that we are doing that because I just can't see another gravesite memorial as I'm driving down that road,” said Solages, who also introduced similar bills last year and in 2021. The bill was recently modified.

Makeshift crosses and other tributes are visible alongside the parkway, with more added since last year.

Studies would need to be conducted to determine what measures would be suitable, including for speed enforcement, Solages said. Currently state law allows for camera speed enforcement in work zones, Solages said.

If speed cameras on the Southern State move forward, the bill would require signs to alert drivers they are entering and exiting “safety corridor-electronic speed enforcement” with fines doubling in that area.

State Department of Transportation spokesman Glenn Blain said in a statement: "NYSDOT does not take a position on pending legislation."

When Nassau County launched a speed camera program near schools in 2014 it was repealed after public outcry. From September to November of that year the county issued 400,000 tickets worth $24 million.

The counties currently don't operate speed cameras on Long Island.

But in New York City speed cameras around school zones are in effect 24/7. The cameras catch drivers going over the speed limit by more than 10 mph and come with a $50 fine.

On the Southern State last month, Osmar Vasquez, a 17-year-old West Babylon High School student, was the latest person to lose their life in a crash. He was sitting in the front passenger seat of a Nissan Altima and was killed when the driver of the car hit trees after veering off the road between Exits 36 and 37.

A particularly problematic stretch of the roadway between Exits 17 and 32 is dubbed Blood Alley because of the sheer number of collisions.

The section is known for its sharp curves, short acceleration and deceleration ramps and shorter exits, according to the Long Island Contractors’ Association.

Solages hopes enforcement and signage will help curb speeding and other dangerous behavior, such as distracted driving.

Robin Blackwood Smith, who lost her daughter, Ashlee Tessono, in a 2019 crash on the Southern State, is unsure whether additional enforcement and ticketing is the answer, but will accept anything that “can save someone’s life,” she said.

“We’ll have to put it to the test and statistics will show whether it works,” said Blackwood-Smith.

Assemb. David McDonough (R-Merrick), a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee, said he lives two blocks from the parkway and has fielded many traffic concerns through the years. He feels any action will help “deter” reckless driving and supports the bill.

The Southern State handles nearly 200,000 cars daily in Nassau County and 130,000 cars through western Suffolk, according to a report released by the Contractors’ Association last year.

There were 15,768 crashes on the Southern State linked to property damage and another 8,443 resulting in injury from 2012  to 2019, the association found.

“It seems like every month there is another fatality on that roadway,” said Marc Herbst, executive director of the Long Island Contractors' Association.

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