In apparent response to increased demands by local officials and residents, the state will install a four-way flashing overhead light at the Route 9G intersection with Tivoli’s entrance road.
Word of the safety improvement, which comes after three recent fatalities at the intersection, was made in an announcement March 21 from state Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald.
The overhead beacon will flash yellow for traffic approaching the intersection both ways on Route 9G and will flash red for drivers approaching from either the Broadway (Tivoli) side or the West Kerley Corners Road (County Rt. 78) side.
A news release from the state DOT said the beacon should be installed and operational by Memorial Day, with construction beginning this spring. The work is being doing in collaboration with Dutchess County.
The state is already planning to widen the shoulders along that stretch of Route 9G starting in the spring.
The urgency for such long-sought safety improvements along the troubled state highway was heightened with the hit-and-run deaths Jan. 31 of two Bard College students, and the death March 3 of a local father of three in a two-car crash. Both incidents happened at or near the intersection.
“Safety is the No. 1 priority at the Department of Transportation, and this new flashing beacon will provide a very visible warning to motorists that they need to proceed with caution,” Commissioner McDonald said in the news release. “This signal will help enhance safety at the intersection for all roadway users.”
In response, Tivoli Mayor Bryan Cranna released a statement saying, “This decision follows a dialogue I began with the DOT in 2009 prior to being elected Mayor. I thank the DOT for their recent attention to this intersection and for their previous efforts as well to address concerns. I look forward to continuing to discuss the Route 9G corridor from Tivoli to Bard College with the DOT to improve signage that will alert drivers to a village and college tucked off of this major highway. Additionally, let us remember those who were victims of accidents along this corridor and their families as well. Let these improvements be part of their legacies.”
County Legislator Micki Strawinski also applauded the state’s move.
“This much needed improvement, combined with the repairs to the shoulders and driving lanes that will begin soon, should make this intersection much safer for those who drive, walk and bicycle along this route,” she said.
She added, “The promptness to which this issue has been addressed, by all who pressed for immediate action, is greatly appreciated. As you may be aware, there have been a series of meetings with many of our local elected officials, the first was held in February and was arranged by Assemblymember Kevin Cahill. I organized and facilitated a follow-up two weeks ago, and the discussion will continue in April.”
Local leaders, including Cranna, County Executive Marc Molinaro, Strawinski and Cahill, along with Red Hook Town Supervisor Sue Crane, State Senator Terry Gipson and Bard College representatives, have attended the meetings with state officials in recent weeks to urge solutions to what they all consider a critical problem.
In the DOT news release Molinaro called the flashing light “an important step toward improving the safety of this intersection.”
“We are grateful to the New York State Department of Transportation for hearing the concerns of our community and working with us to address this critical safety issue,” he added.
And Gipson said in a statement, “I commend the NYSDOT, Dutchess County, local officials and the advocacy of many in our community for working together in our shared effort to make this intersection safer. I look forward, and am committed to continuing, to work with all involved in making further progress.”
Beau Duffy, DOT’s public information officer, was asked by the Observer two weeks ago about a stop light at the intersection.
At the time, Duffy said, “The intersection did not meet traffic signal warrants, as per the review performed in 2009. The study evaluated the warrants for a traffic signal based on traffic volumes, pedestrian volumes and accident history. The study concluded that the location did not meet the criteria for a signal.”
The news release from DOT noted, however, “The flashing beacon will supplement the oversized stop signs and stop-ahead signs on the Broadway and West Kerley Corners Road approaches. Since those signs were installed in 2009, crashes at the intersection have been reduced by 80 percent.”
Local residents, responding online to the state announcement, also applauded the move. But many also wondered why the state didn’t just put in a red light at the intersection, like it had at the intersection of Route 199 and 9G, and also at Kelly Road, after first installing flashing lights at both sites.