Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Pataki to wait for DOT recommendations

Gov. George Pataki weighed in on the issue of dangerous intersections on the Taconic State Parkway in a television interview which aired Dec. 15. 

The following is a transcript of the Dec. 4 interview with Tim Minton of WNBC-TV News in New York City. A transcript was provided by the Governor's Office. 

In the references below, Jody Morrison of Manhattan is mother of Chelsea Morrison, 15, who was killed on Jan. 23, 2000, at the Taconic's Hibernia Road crossing in the Town of Clinton. 

There are crossings, 20 to 22 of them in Dutchess County alone, in which cars can drive straight across -- no overpasses, no underpass. There have been fatalities and, as you know, Jody Morrison is particularly concerned because her daughter was killed in an accident. Is there something that should be done?

Well, we are working every day to make our highways as safe as they possibly can be. ... I now have two children who drive and it scares me, you know, when you have teenagers out there driving. But with regard to any specific proposal, that's something we'll have to wait for the recommendations from our Department of Transportation, who I hope will consult with neighbors, community leaders and local officials. 

Some local residents and businesses don't want to close the grade crossings, like farmers etc. When there are different priorities like this challenging each other, what's a reasonable act?

Well, Tim, I always look at it from the standpoint of trying to make our highways the safest they can be. But you never know what particular action is going to create that. When we raised the speed limit from 55 to 65 on a lot of the upstate roads in New York state there were those who had concerns that a higher speed limit would lead to more accidents. In fact, it's the opposite because we're getting people off the secondary roads onto the safer, limited-access roads and we've seen a decline in deaths and injuries as a result of that. It could be the same thing when you close off a crossing. Obviously, you will have no more accidents at that crossing. But are you putting traffic on local streets that may have an impact where you have an accident at a stop sign in a neighborhood or someone hitting a kid on a bicycle in a community? So it's not as simple as it might seem. Safety is always our paramount interest, paramount concern, but we have to let the impact that it may have not just on quality of life, but on safety. More cars driving through a neighborhood, more cars driving through a downtown increasing the risk of hitting someone pulling in or out of a parking spot. So that's why I'm waiting for our Department of Transportation to do their analysis and get their response before taking any direction from them as to what should be the appropriate decision. 

What would you say to Jody Morrison?

You know we are blessed in this state with people who have gone through personal tragedies and looked at that horrible experience and said: "How can I help others to learn and to benefit as a result of that tragedy?" I know that's what Jody's doing in this case and we take her very seriously and we appreciate her willingness to make this such an important issue. And we certainly intend to listen to her before making any decisions as to what we think will ultimately be best for the safety of the people of Dutchess County and New York.