Commissioner McDonald Calls for Improvements to Deadly Nassau County Road

Joan McDonald

New York Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald. McDonald recently pushed for pedestrian improvements on the Hempstead Turnpike | Photo: Times-Union

For pedestrians on Nassau County’s lethal Hempstead Turnpike, there’s a long road ahead, but at the urging of New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald, it will likely become less dangerous.

In response to years of Tri-State advocacy and a recent Newsday series on the roadway, Commissioner McDonald told her agency to propose short-term and long-term solutions for the perilous stretch, which our Most Dangerous Roads for Walking report has found to be the region’s deadliest for several consecutive years. Four pedestrians were killed on the road in 2008, and six were killed in 2009. Tri-State anticipates that this year’s Most Dangerous Roads report, which will be released in early March, will once again identify the Hempstead Turnpike as the region’s deadliest road for pedestrians. Five were killed there in 2010.

McDonald floated several preliminary life-saving measures in a Newsday article on Wednesday: closing the gaps in medians that allow cars to turn, implementing parking restrictions, improving turn lanes, installing red light cameras, and adding countdown timers to crosswalks.

“Safety is our top priority,” McDonald said. “We can always improve.”

These are important short-term fixes, and the state should also consider adding other safety measures like pedestrian refuges, landscaped medians, and neckdowns.

The Department of Transportation’s proposals are due back in one to three months, but the state cannot make changes soon enough—yesterday, a 72-year-old pedestrian died crossing the turnpike.

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