Crossing Erie Boulevard on foot from the Stockade can be a dangerous proposition, Stockade resident Larry Meyerhoff says.
To get his point across to the city, Meyerhoff is set today to deliver to City Hall a petition with more than 130 signatures.
The petition calls for the city to make the Erie Boulevard intersections with Union Street and Liberty Street like the one at State Street, where all traffic stops when pedestrians need to cross. There, pedestrians push a button and wait for the sign telling them to cross.
The petition also calls for better enforcement of traffic laws at the intersections.
Asked about the issues this week, Mayor Gary McCarthy pointed to the long-anticipated Erie Boulevard reconstruction project that is set to get under way in May. Project officials say there will be some improvements for pedestrians.
McCarthy also agreed that increased enforcement of traffic laws already on the books may be in order along the corridor.
“We’re looking to modify this as part of the redevelopment of Erie Boulevard, which has taken far too long,” McCarthy said. “Some of it, where drivers aren’t complying with signs or yielding to the pedestrian’s right of way, we may need to do more aggressive enforcement.”
But for Meyerhoff, who lives on Green Street and walks as much as he can, the solution is a simple one. He says pedestrians crossing Erie at Liberty, Union and even Green streets fear drivers turning into the crosswalk as they cross.
He is proposing through his petition that both directions of travel be stopped for pedestrians wanting to cross, with no right turns allowed.
“You’re walking thinking you have a protected walk, and you don’t,” Meyerhoff said.
State Street is where Meyerhoff’s neighbor Dale Miller chooses to cross Erie when he’s going to work and coming home.
“I don’t want to cross at Union or Liberty because it’s become too dangerous. I think it’s always been dangerous,” Miller said. “You don’t cross the street without assuming that people are going to ignore you.”
Miller is one of the 138 individuals to sign Meyerhoff’s petition.
Meyerhoff also called for increased enforcement of traffic laws at the intersection. He cited the November killing of Schenectady County Community College student Cassandra Boone, struck as she crossed Erie Boulevard at the State Street intersection.
In that case, though, authorities now believe there also was criminality involved. Authorities believe the driver, Anthony Gallo, was high on drugs when he ran a red light and struck Boone, before fleeing the scene. Gallo was also driving without a license, authorities allege. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the charges against him.
The petition comes as the city is about to finally start the large Erie Boulevard project. According to project manager John O’Sullivan, the project includes better, more longer-lasting striping at State, Liberty and Union streets.
At Liberty, it also includes a small island. The island would be at the northeast corner of the intersection, having pedestrians first cross the traffic turning right, then, from the island, cross Erie. For the Erie crossing, then, pedestrians going toward Burger King wouldn’t have to worry about traffic failing to give them the proper right of way.
Currently at Liberty, light-green signs remind drivers to give pedestrians the right of way in the crosswalks. There are no such signs at Union. Yellow regular crosswalk signs are up at Green.
The actual timing of the lights is still to be finalized, O’Sullivan said.
The majority of the work on Erie will take place south of State Street. There, pedestrians will have an easier time crossing that stretch than they do now, O’Sullivan said. There will be a median in the middle of the road. There will also be two clearly marked spots for pedestrians to cross, at a new traffic light at Erie and Ferry Street and further south, past Church Street and Erie.
The project is set to begin in early May and be completed by the end of November 2013. The project is expected to cost between $9.5 million and $11 million, with most covered by the federal and state governments. The final figures won’t be known until bids are opened at the end of March.