crossings to close
The state will close six Dutchess County intersections on the Taconic State
Parkway because of the deaths and injuries from accidents.
than 50 car crashes resulting in injury or death in just four years was
enough of a toll for some residents to want to cut off most access to a
Beginning Monday, the state Department of Transportation will phase in
the closing of six of the Taconic State Parkway's busiest median crossings
and intersections in Dutchess County, state DOT spokeswoman Colleen McKenna
Even folks at Plaza Diner in Hopewell Junction, less than five miles from
one of the Taconic's busiest median crossings to be closed, are counting
the action as a blessing, rather than calculating lost business and added
"Cost is not a consideration compared to a person's life," said Ellen Pionzio,
who works at the Hudson Valley diner. Her husband will need to drive a
few more minutes from his job because of the closings, but "safety is more
of a concern than the added time."
Even her boss agrees. He hasn't even figured out how much business he might
"It's the best thing they ever did," said proprietor Tony Varrone.
Ten people have been killed at these types of crossover intersections off
the Taconic in the entire county from 1994-98, according to William Johnson
of the Dutchess County Traffic Safety Board. Another died last month at
the Carpenter Road intersection, which is scheduled to be closed, he said.
The accident rate per 1 million vehicles ranges from nearly four times
the state average at Hosner Mountain Road to nearly eight times the state
average at Carpenter Road, according to state statistics provided Tuesday.
The "at-grade intersections" allow traffic to cross oncoming lanes of traffic
to exit the highway, which has a posted speed limit at 55 mph, Johnson
The increase in traffic, however, has backed up traffic and made the crossing
even more difficult. The closings means drivers will have access to the
Taconic only through right-hand turns, he said.
Local officials attribute much of the rise to the Taconic's change from
a scenic parkway 70 years ago when it was built to a magnet for development
and a highway for growing legions of commuters to jobs in Westchester County
and New York City 50 miles to the south.
Some, however, chalk those statistics up to driver error, something that
can't be shut down with a lane, said Peter Idema, town supervisor of nearby
East Fishkill. Instead, the state's action will force more traffic into
fewer turnoffs not designed for more volume. He said the stretch may get
"I don't know how anything can be made accident proof," he said Tuesday.
"If you read the reports, it's all driver error."
The state will monitor the traffic flow to see if the changes are helping
or hindering safety and whether permanent closings are warranted. The state
will also change the timing of traffic lights to improve flow and other
safety measures, McKenna said.
Until then, East Fishkill will be divided by the Taconic, where a one-mile
trip today could become a 20-mile roundtrip by summer's end.
"As a farmer told me, 'Today I live a mile from my friend, soon I'll live
10 miles from my friend,"' Idema said.
But that means little to people who heard the screeching tires, felt the
thud of slamming tons of metal and saw the news reports of crashes that
killed people like 15-year-old Chelsea Morrison last year.
"This is not about local inconvenience," her mother, Jody Morrison, told
The New York Times. "This is about people dying; this is about the death
of my daughter."
The mother's emotional plea pushed the Dutchess County Legislature to ask
the state in March to close some of the crossings.
"We've had a lot of problems, a high accident history on certain crossings
on the Taconic," the state DOT's McKenna said.
"I'm not going to say it isn't going take a person a little longer to get
where they're going, but it should be minimal, no more than a few minutes."
The decision was made after hearings and interviews with county officials,
schools, residents and emergency medical workers who respond to accidents
along the stretch.
"Most of the community is behind this," she said. "It's not going to affect
people traveling through the county, it's just going to really affect the
people living in the area. They are the people at risk."