When a teenage pedestrian was killed crossing the dangerous highway that runs through his Hudson River city in June, Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse said enough is enough. Now, Morse wants that stretch of 787 re-made into a boulevard. Change is already on the way.
"I think you'll all want to come down the highway with me to see one of the new safety features that the DOT had orchestrated for us that would have probably been six or seven months before the bureaucracy and buying the equipment and getting the approvals would have been done. With their help, within two weeks we now will have the first set of safety precautions down on 787."
Pressing the cross button at the intersection of 787 and Bridge Street now stops traffic in all four directions, handing control of the intersection over to pedestrians, giving walkers 35 seconds to cross in all directions. Morse, speaking Tuesday, says middle buttons may eventually be installed on the islands separating the driving lanes.
Bridge Street is a small start: other Cohoes crossings along 787 will get the same treatment in the days and weeks to come. Morse is asking that 787 be reclassified as a boulevard instead of a freeway. The project would cost between $12 and $15 million, and Morse says he won't accept any excuses for not finding the funding to complete the project. There was a similar push that went nowhere a pedestrian fatality along 787 in 2004. That death resulted in a complete study, but the project fizzled.
Morse says there’s also been talk about lowering the speed limit where 787 approaches Cohoes. "There's a concern that if we just simply said 'turn it to 30' and had red lights and had strict enforcement, we could have traffic backed up all the way to McDonald's in Waterford and then you'd have all these other kinds of accidents, everybody's hurrying up trying to get through the lights. So what we're gonna do now is I have a commitment from Sam that we will monitor how this works, and if reducing the speed before it becomes a boulevard is something we feel has to happen because these things are not doing what we think they may not be doing, he's committed to have that dialog. But I do understand the other end of that which is we don't wanna cause a whole bunch of other accidents by restricting traffic, so we're examining the speed limit as well.
New York State DOT Region 1 Director Sam Zhou says a reconfigured 787 would feature similar lighting, curbing, media and signage that motorists encounter along Route 9 in Saratoga Springs, which transitions as it heads into downtown.
Starting Monday, patrols along 787 will be beefed-up and Cohoes police will pull over any driver going a few miles over the posted speed limits. Morse says they likely won’t get a ticket, but they will be handed informational brochures about safety.
NY DOT spokesman Bryan Viggiani: "Education's a big component of this. We're thankful and very appreciative and support the mayor and the city of Cohoes, which will be conducting an education program through its summer recreation program for its children in conjunction with Albany County, and with materials developed by DOT, GTSC, which is the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, and the Department of Health."
Next week Albany County sheriff's deputies and State Police will lend Cohoes police a hand pulling drivers over as part the 787 educational campaign.