Ithaca, N.Y. — Citing the Simeon’s crash in June, U.S. Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer called on the Federal Highway Administration to conduct a “road safety audit” for the intersections of Route 79 and Route 96B following the fatal crash.

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Schumer appeared at Ithaca’s City Hall Monday with Mayor Svante Myrick, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, Tompkins legislator Mike Lane and a handful of other local officials.

Schumer sent a letter to the FHWA calling for the “excellent work” of local officials on truck safety to be augmented at the federal level.

At a press conference, he said the “federal safety audit” of the intersection of the two major roads should include the study of surrounding streets and also provide the funding to follow-up on possible fixes.

“Truck accidents at this intersection are a persistent problem and we know sure as we’re here they’ll continue if nothing’s done,” Schumer said.

Schumer said he visited the intersection in Ithaca today.

“When trucks come down the hill and have to make the sharp turn it just doesn’t work,” he said.

Federal officials will work with local officials to come up with solutions — not simply mandate them, Schumer said.

“They will not come out on high from Mount Olympus” and throw down the answers, Schumer said. “We all have to come together at all levels.”

Schumer with Fernando de Aragón, of the local transportation council

Schumer said he didn’t want people to have to think twice before going to the Commons.

“We would say an accident waiting to happen but unfortunately and more appropriately, it’s more accidents waiting to happen.”

“To launch a push to bring in some critical federal support to make this intersection a whole lot safer,” Schumer said.

“There needs to be a safety overhaul.”

Schumer said he thought the audit would take months — and that there should be an answer within a year.

In prepared remarks, Schumer also cited the history of previous trucking accidents at or near the Commons intersection.

“We must work together at all levels of government to identify ways we can prevent accidents like this summer’s from happening again,” Schumer said, according to prepared remarks.

“Making this intersection safer is at the top of my to-do list, and the Federal Highway Administration should put it at the top of theirs, too.”

A statement from Schumer’s office included a letter the senator sent to the FHWA:

“I write to urge the Federal Highway Administration and the New York State Department of Transportation to undertake a Road Safety Audit for the intersection of Route 96B and Route 79, including adjacent streets at the east end of the Ithaca Commons, to identify safety issues and develop recommendations for improvements,” Schumer’s letter said, according to a copy.

“I urge FHWA and NYSDOT to work with local stakeholders to undertake a Road Safety Audit for this intersection. The Tompkins County Truck Safety Committee has laid the groundwork to improve trucking safety at this intersection and across the region; now they need the technical support to identify the best ways to make this intersection as safe as possible.”

The letter continued:

“A Road Safety Audit 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. Additionally I would urge that any potential hazard mitigation recommendations produced by this Road Safety Audit be given a high priority for federal highway funding so the improvements can begin as soon as possible.”

Before Schumer spoke, Mayor Svante Myrick praised Schumer’s efforts and said he had been crucial in securing funding for the Commons reconstruction project.

“While we were looking for a federal partner we could not have asked for a better one,” Myrick said.

“We are in extremely good hands.”

We’ll be posting an update soon.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.