Route 25/25A in downtown Smithtown, in Suffolk County, is becoming well known for all the wrong reasons.
Last week, two young sisters, Mabel and Melody Burgos, were injured while crossing the street at its intersection with Lawrence Avenue. As of Monday, Melody was still in a coma. This is the same intersection and roadway where four other pedestrians have been struck since January 2010, with three killed, including 11-year-old Courtney Sipes and 33-year-old Seamus Byrne. These fatalities prompted the NYSDOT to target downtown Smithtown as a pilot area for its SafeSeniors pedestrian safety program, and some of the targeted improvements had been implemented by last fall. These limited improvements, while welcome, haven’t gone far enough.
Saying that more couldn’t be done because of limited capital funding, the DOT made these improvements with existing operating resources. With this latest news, it is clear the DOT has a lot of work to do. New crosswalks and fencing to channel pedestrians to safer crossings have done little to alter the fundamental problem facing pedestrians and other non-motorists along Route 25/25A: speeding cars, often traveling well over the posted limit of 30 mph.
According to reports, both Smithtown and Suffolk County officials support reducing the number of lanes in downtown Smithtown from four to two, a “road diet” that would reduce the speed of automobiles and increase pedestrian safety (and wouldn’t necessarily be expensive, since it could be done through restriping). Unfortunately, since Route 25/25A is a state road, the decision rests at NYSDOT. And while NYSDOT has talked a good game about improving pedestrian safety, it’s been hesitant to actually implement major improvements. Joan McDonald, the agency’s new commissioner, has an opportunity to bring new ideas to NYSDOT’s Region 10 (Long Island) office that will reduce needless accidents on the road.