CORTLANDT, N.Y. – The high-speed winding Bear Mountain State Parkway is, again, the subject of scrutiny by residents and the Cortlandt Town Board, after the December death of a Peekskill man in a head-on collision.
"Hopefully the state will take into consideration putting in a median," said Carole Wilson, the mother of 27-year-old LaMarr Barnes, who was killed in a crash on Dec. 9, 2011 on the Bear Mountain State Parkway.
A resident of Peekskill and father of a 5-year-old son, Barnes was killed when the Nissan Altima in which he was a passenger was struck head-on by another driver crossing into oncoming traffic. At the time of the accident, police believe the driver who crossed into oncoming traffic may have been attempting to avoid rear-ending another vehicle.
Barnes' family and the Cortlandt Town Board collected nearly 1,500 signatures in a petition circulated through area businesses and community organizations. The announcement of continued lobbying efforts was held at the scene of the accident, at Arlo Lane on the Bear Mountain State Parkway. Barnes' mother wiped tears away with the sleeve of a green sweatshirt as cars whizzed by at highway speeds.
"The tragedies occur when a car swerves over the double yellow line," said Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi over the revving of passing cars. Since February 2006, the town board has sent several letters and resolutions lobbying for the installation of additional safety provisions on the parkway.
In 2008, after lobbying then-New York State Sen. Vincent Leibell (R-Patterson), the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) announced it would undertake a construction project on the parkway.
Joan Dupont, regional director of the NYSDOT, wrote that the department has a "capital project programmed to reconstruct the Bear Mountain Parkway from Routes 6/9/202 to Routes 35/202. This construction will make the necessary physical changes to the parkway in order to install a median barrier along the Bear Mountain Parkway. The project will also address other safety and operational needs. We expect to take bids in 2012."
In a December 2011 press release, the NYSDOT stated that the $60 million project to reconstruct the parkway was pushed back to 2017, and that the scope of the project was significantly narrowed.
"Due to the nationwide economic downturn, the project has been pushed back because it does not fit into our current capital program focus," stated the release.
"DOT is currently planning to reconstruct the interchange of Bear Mountain Parkway at Route 6 in 2017. This project will include the installation of some concrete median barrier on a short segment of Bear Mountain Parkway," read the same release.
Puglisi said the collection of petitions would aid the town in lobbying efforts, where resolutions appeared ineffective in the past.
"When you have 1,500 signatures on any subject, especially a subject of this magnitude, you will get their attention," said Puglisi. "We will no longer accept the word 'no.'"