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Rash of crashes draws scrutiny to Schenectady intersection

Rash of crashes draws scrutiny to Schenectady intersection

A city-owned garbage truck collided with a vehicle there Friday
Rash of crashes draws scrutiny to Schenectady intersection
The intersection of Eastern Avenue and Bedford Road is pictured after a June 13 accident.
Photographer: Photo courtesy of Reggie Pean

SCHENECTADY — Wreckage glittering in the sun from smashed vehicles is a recurring part of the landscape at the corner of Eastern Avenue and Bedford Road, area residents say.

“We have scattered bits in the road all the time,” resident Sharon Astyk said. “We’re very familiar with accidents and they’re becoming a major problem.”

The Astyks are worried about the safety of their 12 children, noting the metal fence surrounding their yard has stopped at least one wayward vehicle from gaining entry. The dents serve as evidence.

More recently, a city-owned garbage truck collided with a vehicle on Friday.

Councilman Vince Riggi said the truck went through the stop sign at Bedford Road, causing “quite a bit of damage” to the other vehicle. The driver was issued a summons as a result, city police said on Monday.

Reggie Pean, who lives within sight of the intersection, didn’t witness that crash, but was outside eight days earlier when two vehicles collided on June 13. 

“It happens on a regular basis,” Pean said. “Too often.”

SHADY SIGN

City police could not immediately provide a full list of recent incidents at that intersection, but Astyk cycled through a list of encounters she has witnessed since her family relocated to their neighborhood in 2016.

Robert Harvey, president of the Eastern Avenue Neighborhood Association, said residents began noticing an uptick of incidences several years ago. 

“They were happening three or four times a year,” Harvey said. “It seemed like a lot to us.”

In an attempt to address the issue, the association worked with a Bedford Road homeowner to trim hedges that were obscuring lines of sight, he said. The city helped with brush removal and installed a yellow “stop-ahead” sign roughly 100 feet ahead of the intersection on the northbound lane of Bedford Road.

Several neighborhood residents noted the peculiar arrangement of the stop sign, which is nailed to a tree.

While foliage appeared to be trimmed back from the tree on Monday, photos from the June 13 crash provided by Pean reveal a denser thicket. 

Asked if the growth was a factor in the city garbage truck crash, city police couldn’t immediately say, noting the officer who filed the report was out of the office.

Harvey said past discussions with residents revealed a preference to keep the tree.

“The tree was a nice tree and no one wanted to cut it down,” he said.

Harvey said the frequency of crashes at the intersection may be attributed to a set of complex factors.

Motorists opt to use Eastern Avenue as a thoroughfare as opposed to the parallel-running Union Street because there are fewer lights, he said. The light at Elmer Avenue tends to be green, he said, and vehicles navigating east tend to pick up speed along that stretch due to a relative lack of businesses, which typically slow traffic.

Drivers also tend to pick up speed in an effort to beat the light at N. Brandywine Avenue.

“If you really want to slow traffic, you’ve got to look at more than one thing,” Harvey said.

The nearest stoplight is one block west at the corner of Eastern and Elmer avenues in front of the former Elmer Street Elementary School, which was closed in 2017.

Astyk wondered if the light could be relocated. Pean also said he'd prefer to see a light at the location.

Developers have indicated an interest in future reuse of the site, and Harvey noted redevelopment may require a continued need for the light at that corner. 

Riggi said he has received calls from constituents seeking a long-term solution, and questioned why the stop sign was nailed to a tree as opposed to being situated on a more visible standard pole. 

“I’d like to see the sign erected properly,” he said. “We don’t want someone killed at this intersection.”

Any change would have to be made by the city’s Signal Control Department, which did not return a call seeking comment on Monday.

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