Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Keep talking about Taconic

Karl Rabe/Journal file
Motorists wait to cross the Taconic Parkway at Carpenter Road in East Fishkill last month.
The Town of East Fishkill says it will challenge in court the state's decision to close some Taconic State Parkway crossings.

That would be unfortunate, and the Town of East Fishkill should reconsider its position, at least for the time being.

The state has made the right decision to close some of the crossings at least temporarily, citing the treacherous conditions at these intersections that have led to an inordinate number of accidents, including fatalities. The crossings are all between grade-separated interchanges that are safer for motorists to cross over the Taconic.

Local officials have resisted these closures, in part, because of the inconvenience they will pose to some of their residents. But safety must prevail in a battle with convenience, which is why the state is right to close the crossings while continuing to look for more long-term solutions. 

Emergency vehicles won't be deterred 

The state is posting signs and putting down plastic devices as barricades at these crossings. The state says fire engines can get over the barricades in the event of an emergency, and, in fact, the devices aren't designed to keep any emergency vehicle from using the crossings. But anyone caught misusing the crossings could be fined for disobeying a traffic control device, or worse, state police say.

All levels of government should concede Taconic ''at-grade'' crossings are out of date, considering how much use of the Taconic has increased since the crossings were constructed. At the 10 worst crossings in Dutchess County alone, more than 200 accidents occurred between 1994 and 1999. These accidents injured 247 people and killed seven, according to one Poughkeepsie Journal study.

Yet, for years, the state did nothing about this situation. Now it is finally taking some action, and it is open to modifying the plan if warranted. What's more, the state still intends to make permanent changes to some of the crossings once a task force completes its recommendations this fall. The temporary closures will give the task force more information on which to base a final decision. The town should not impede this process. It should delay filing a lawsuit at least until the ramifications of the closures are known.