In June 2014, A Tractor-Trailer Barreled Down East Hill And Crashed Into Simeon’s Restaurant Near Route 79, Killing One Person and Injuring Seven Others; Following The Crash, Schumer Called On Fed Safety Board To Study Design Of Roads, Traffic Flows & Make Recommendations To Prevent Another Deadly Accident

FHWA Agreed To Conduct A Safety Audit And Completed Preliminary Draft Findings; Final Recommendations Should Be Released Shortly – Schumer Pledges To Work With Locals & Feds To Implement Study’s Final Recommendations; Vows to Continue Pushing Feds to Prioritize Funding for Road Upgrades 

Schumer: Implementing Fed Safety Audit’s Recommendations Would Make Intersection Safer, Save Lives

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that the Road Safety Audit team consisting of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), and local officials, will soon release their findings and recommendations after conducting a safety audit at the intersection of Route 96B and Route 79. In June 2014, a tractor-trailer lost control and barreled through this intersection, slamming into Simeon’s restaurant on the Commons pedestrian mall in Ithaca. The crash killed one person and injured seven others. Following the deadly accident, Schumer called on the FHWA to work with the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to conduct a federal audit, known as a Road Safety Audit (RSA), to analyze the intersection, the design of the roads, traffic flow and patterns and other characteristics to identify improvements that could be made in order to avoid another tragic accident. Schumer said the preliminary draft report has been completed and the final report is forthcoming. Schumer said once the final report is released, he will work with the FHWA and NYSDOT to implement the RSA’s recommendations. In addition, he renewed his push to have the FHWA prioritize federal funding needed to make these recommendations a reality once they have been determined.

“The tragic crash at Simeon’s Restaurant served as a wake-up call that the east end of the Ithaca Commons needs a safety overhaul. That is why I called on the FHWA and NYSDOT to work with local officials to conduct a federal road safety audit to inspect the road, traffic flow and signage so they could make improvements to the road and avoid future accidents,” said Schumer. “With the news that the final report’s recommendations are forthcoming, I am pushing the federal government to prioritize the funding needed to make implementing these recommendations a reality. I look forward to reading the final report and working to make this intersection safer for the people who pass through it each day.”

Schumer explained that, in June 2014, a tractor-trailer driving west on East State Street/Route 79 failed to veer to the side to stay on Route 79 when it crashed into a four-story building in downtown Ithaca. When the truck lost control, it crashed into Simeon’s restaurant located at the east end of the Ithaca Commons, killing one woman inside and leaving seven others injured. Following the crash, it was determined that the tractor-trailer’s brakes failed and the truck, quickly picking up speed as it headed down the steep incline on Route 79, was unable to stop. Schumer said this truck crash was not an isolated incident, and this intersection has previously experienced close calls and accidents. Over the last six years, including the Simeon’s crash, there have been three incidents involving trucks at this very spot. The other two were both extremely close calls, including one where a dump truck missed a turn, overturned and glided into a building on Route 79 going into the City of Ithaca, and another where a truck lost control of its breaks and there were, fortunately, no injuries.

In February 2015, Schumer stood at Ithaca City Hall and called on FHWA and NYSDOT to conduct an RSA to analyze the intersection, specifically the design of the roads, traffic patterns and nearby signs that could be improved to prevent another accident. The FHWA and NYSDOT agreed to conduct the RSA and began working with local stakeholders to study the route. Road Safety Audits (RSA) are conducted by the FHWA in partnership with state Departments of Transportation and other stakeholders to identify safety hazards and develop recommendations for overall safety improvements to highways. An RSA is a formal process that consists, among other elements, of selecting an RSA team and stakeholders, performing field reviews, conducting an analysis and preparing an RSA report. This report then presents and incorporates findings from the audit into a final project to increase safety. Schumer said the FHWA would work with the NYSDOT and the local Tompkins County Truck Safety Committee task force to conduct this audit, which would examine and analyze the intersection, including the design of the roads, the traffic flow and mix, and other characteristics, and identify possible safety improvements, like installing crash attenuators. According to the FHWA, RSAs can be used in any phase of project development, from planning and preliminary engineering, to design and construction. RSAs can also be used on any sized project from minor intersection and roadway retrofits to mega-projects.

Now, with the FHWA’s final report forthcoming, Schumer said he stands ready to work with the federal agency, NYSDOT, and local officials to implement the RSA’s recommendations. While the community and NYSDOT have already begun making changes such as cutting down trees and brush to improve sign visibility and creating additional warning signs with flashers to alert drivers to the oncoming hill, more recommendations are expected to be made in the RSA final report, including updates like changing traffic patterns and transitioning to higher visibility, higher durability pavement markings. Once the report’s recommendations are released, Schumer said he will push for federal highway funding to make the suggested improvements and ensure another tragic accident on this route does not happen again.


Previous Article Next Article