The death of a Tarrytown pedestrian at a busy intersection has increased pressure on the state to improve safety at that and other crossings along the North Broadway corridor.
Village police and the county accident investigation team were probing the incident that took the life of Nelida Distante on Nov. 27 at McKeel Avenue, Tarrytown Police Chief John Barbelet said in mid-December.
The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office determined there was no evidence to warrant criminal charges related to Distante’s death, according to spokeswoman Anna Young. “The Tarrytown Police Department has always maintained this was an accident,” Young stated.
On a Friday afternoon in mid-December, a village police cruiser was stationed on the east side of McKeel near the corner of Broadway, where there are crosswalks but no traffic signal.
A study of the intersection by the state Department of Transportation, which is responsible for the roadway, also known as Route 9, is currently ongoing, according to a DOT spokeswoman.
“We have asked the DOT to evaluate the intersection in terms of safety improvements that will benefit pedestrians and drivers, and we both shared some suggestions that they are taking back to their design engineers to perform further evaluation and review,” Tarrytown Village Administrator Richard Slingerland stated. “Once we hear back from them, then we can provide a more definitive response on what improvements they will agree to implement at that intersection.”
Distante’s death added urgency to discussions the village has had with state officials about improving safety at spots along the Route 9 corridor that have a heightened risk of accidents and injuries, Slingerland added.
Among the steps previously taken by the village and state include lowering speed limits along some stretches of Route 9, and adding all-way stops for drivers at Main Street and Prospect Avenue to allow pedestrians to cross safely.
Other measures under review include sidewalk improvements at key intersections that narrow the road, improved lighting and adding button-activated flashing pedestrian walkway signs.
Grants are funding a study on creating a bike lane along Broadway from Sleepy Hollow through Hastings-on-Hudson; and a review of higher-risk pedestrian areas between the Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow downtowns and in proximity to schools.
Meanwhile, drivers have been warned that village police are on the lookout for vehicles that don’t stop for pedestrians in crosswalks along Route 9. More than 75 tickets have been issued in the past six months, according to Barbelet.
Daniel Convissor, director of the advocacy group Bike Tarrytown, said the Nov. 27 fatality was preceded by years of inaction on what he called a high-crash location that village and state officials were aware of.
Convissor said data from the state DOT indicated that between 1987 and 2019, 18 people walking or cycling were injured at the corner of Broadway and McKeel. While there were 19 incidents at the intersection of Broadway and Main Street, the crash rate per crossing at McKeel is significantly higher because far fewer people cross there, he said.
He points to dangerous lane configurations, lack of traffic calming and poor lighting.
Although North Broadway has one lane in each direction at McKeel, the road is wide enough to allow north-south drivers to go around vehicles turning left or right. This leads to unsafe speeds, poor visibility and poor compliance by drivers who should yield to pedestrians crossing, he said.
Pedestrians must navigate four lanes of traffic, plus vehicles turning from McKeel, said Convissor, a 10-year Sleepy Hollow resident. He wants North Broadway’s two lanes to be narrowed, a median added and better lighting.