Thursday, August 16, 2001

Provide input on Taconic issue

How effective are letter-writing campaigns? Just ask anyone who helped prod the state into closing some of the more dangerous intersections on the Taconic State Parkway.

Yes, it took time, but there's no doubt the hundreds of letters sent to state Department of Transportation officials and other state lawmakers weighed heavily on the decision to close the crossings, at least temporarily, until a permanent solution is found.

Such grassroots efforts are continuing, and that's a positive development.

Some Carpenter Road residents in the Town of East Fishkill have formed a group to push the state to close that Taconic State Parkway median -- permanently. That crossing, along with the one at Hosner Mountain Road, will soon be closed temporarily, joining four others: Stormville Road and Bogardus Lane in East Fishkill, and Arthursburg Road and Todd Hill Road in LaGrange.

The DOT selected these six crossings because they all are between grade-separated interchanges that are safer for motorists to cross over the Taconic. Drivers can still turn right onto the parkway from these roads, but they can't cross it to turn left or to continue straight on the crossroad.

The fledging group says permanent closure at Carpenter Road is essential to keeping their community safe. Their belief is understandable. Each year, as commuter traffic has grown on the parkway, so has the number of accidents where local roads cross the thoroughfare.

Feedback to state essential

Specifically, the group is concerned that improvements being made to a bridge will bring heavier trucks through the area, increasing the danger. To make their point, they have created a petition they intend to submit to state officials. The petition can be found at some establishments, such as the Plaza Diner and Russo's Liquor store on Route 82.

While such efforts are laudable, the state also must listen closely to the concerns raised by some local officials who have been against the closures, especially on a permanent basis. Aside from limiting the access of emergency vehicles, they cite the inconvenience, especially for those who live or work or operate farms on roads connecting to the Taconic.

The state has other options to consider, including redesigning entrance and exit lanes to make them safer, adding traffic lights, or creating overpasses.

In short, all sides need to be heard on this issue.

It's been a grassroots effort -- and an effective one -- that has forced the state to begin addressing safety issues on the Taconic.

Those involved should be commended for their activism, for standing up for what they truly believe. Others should speak up, too, before the DOT offers more lasting solutions to this pressing problem.

Where to write

To offer your views about safety on the Taconic State Parkway, write to DOT Regional Director Robert Dennison, 4 Burnett Blvd., Poughkeepsie, NY 12603.