JOHANNA M. COSTIGAN, CO-EDITOR IN CHIEF | NOVEMBER 22, 2016
9G is dangerous. Considering its accident history, its reputation as a danger zone appears well-deserved. It was the site of many fatal accidents; according to Tivoli Fire department president Thomas Crisci, Sr., at least 14 people died at the West Kerley Corners intersection since he started working for the department in 1979.
But Bard without Route 9G is like Oz without the Yellow Brick Road. We need it, and we suffer directly from its danger and mismanagement.
Recently, a survey was completed on the road in order to assess the extent to which it needs to be altered and what changes should be made, as well as what safety measures should be prioritized. The representatives of this survey team held a meeting to explain which improvements they suggested and why.
Despite 9G’s direct relationship to Bard, only a handful of students attended the Red Hook town meeting held at the beginning of the semester that addressed the road and proposed improvements. One of them, senior Lia Russell, is a fierce advocate for safety improvements on the road.
After her friends Sarah McCausland and Lina Brown were killed by a drunk driver on 9G in 2014, Russell has been committed to doing what she can to prevent another accident. She was one of the founding members of the Upper 9G Committee, which consists of representatives from Bard, Tivoli, and other local governmental agencies. They meet every few months to discuss which changes should be made to the road as well as strategies that can make them a reality.
Russell explained that the process of making any change is particularly slow-moving because the town of Red Hook (of which the Village of Tivoli is a part) has a very small budget. Most of the suggestions or requests the committee makes require grant funding, which can be difficult to come by.
She said it takes a lot of petitioning and talking to various politicians about the issues, including writing letters about why this is a problem and providing Bard’s perspective on it. She and others ensure that those in the position to make decisions understand that their reason for wanting change derives directly from the tragic accident.
Regarding Tivoli’s strengthened enforcement of laws intended to limit partying in the village, Russell said, “People should be able to put their kids to sleep, and the village of Tivoli has done the best it can with a really limited budget. But shutting up after 10 doesn’t make people safer.”
She highlighted the fact that many students might make different decisions when they are off campus at night if they were aware of the accident that occurred nearly three years ago, when the current seniors were freshmen.
“I think older Bard students are really cautious, but it should be brought up to the younger grades because those kids just don’t know what happened,” she said.
Russell continued, “I just heard a bunch of freshmen were walking from Tivoli the other night because they couldn’t catch a shuttle. They had no other way home, but that kind of thing makes older students really nervous.”
Though many drastic changes were suggested during the town meeting, the only resolutions that were immediately adopted by the Red Hook Town Board were the reduction of two speed limits:
During the meeting, Tivoli Fire Department President Crisci repeatedly interrupted the officials’ dismissal of making major changes.
“You don’t see the bodies,” he interjected after the Department of Transportation representative claimed the budget was too constrained to make big changes, such as installing an actual traffic light at the intersection of 9G, Broadway, and West Kerley Corners.
Crisci continued, “You don’t see the accidents, or the dead people. The firemen see the bodies, and something’s gotta change.”
He believes the permanent answer to this dilemma is to install a traffic light at the intersection, to ensure that cars have come to a full stop. He explained that many people have tried to achieve this goal, from volunteers to local officials. Their efforts resulted in the survey, though he believes this is the start of a long process, not the successful end of one.
He said that the issue is primarily financial, and that most responses blame the lack of action on a lack of funding. But this explanation doesn’t satisfy him. He argued that since the state authorities have been warned of the danger multiple times over the course of many years, it is their responsibility to make a change, and any disaster that occurs there can be partially attributed to their inaction.
“If anything ever happened to anyone in my family at that intersection, New York state wouldn’t have enough money to defend themselves,” he said.
He continued by voicing his frustration, as well as that of others who have been first responders of accidents at this location.
“We don’t want to pick up any more dead bodies. Any fireman will tell you the same thing: enough.”
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