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Albany councilman: Safer streets on the way

Posted at: 03/04/2013 11:40 PM
By: Dan Levy

ALBANY - After two serious accidents along Central Avenue in Albany in recent weeks, one of them fatal, several city residents were saying Monday night: The roadway has long been an accident waiting to happen. Now, there is legislation waiting to happen, that city lawmakers are hopeful will make city streets a lot safer.

Even though some city residents were asking rhetorically: why does it take a tragedy to spur legislative bodies into action? Albany city lawmakers responded by saying: No it didn't.

The most recent calls for action came in the immediate aftermath of the fatal car/pedestrian accident on Central Avenue and King Street, February 12th. That's what brought 81-year old Rita Marsh to Albany's Common Council on Monday night.

"For the past two and a half years, I've called police, City Hall, I've called everyone about that intersection," Marsh, who witnessed the fatal accident, said.

Community advocate Marlon Anderson was at the meeting for the same reason.

"The streets have become raceways for many cars," Anderson says, "People are hurrying up to get to nowhere."

Even Common Council member Leah Golby realizes there's a problem.

"I work on Central Avenue," she says, "It's definitely a harrowing street to cross."

Golby was ahead of the curve on street safety, introducing Complete Streets Legislation in January, several weeks before serious back-to-back accidents.

The legislation, modeled after recent state law that requires cities to consider all users of the road -- motorists, bus drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians -- when they redesign or repave roads.

"I don't think we were knee jerk on this," said Councilman Michael O'Brien. "I don't think we're coming here only because there's been an unfortunate fatality. I think it's a process that's being thought out, like it's supposed to be."

O'Brien represents the 12th Ward where the accidents happened. He says more public education, including flashing signs (already in place) that warn motorists to be cautious and beware of pedestrians, will go a long way, even though it may take a lot more to satisfy everyone.

"What is this city coming to when you have to scream and yell until they're sick of hearing you and nothing's done?" Marsh asked council members.

O'Brien says the timing mechanism on the traffic light at Central and King has been modified which he says should give pedestrians more time to cross the street. He says he expects the Complete Streets Legislation to pass the City Council next month.