A 1.7 mile section of Niagara Falls Boulevard has become one of the deadliest stretches of road for pedestrians in the Buffalo area.
A 67-year-old man struck by a vehicle and killed crossing Niagara Falls Boulevard on Thursday became the fifth person to die trying to cross the busy stretch of the roadway over the last three years.
The pedestrian, who has not been identified, was struck by a pickup truck while walking against the green traffic light to a bus stop at about 6:40 a.m. near Dexter Terrace on the Amherst-Tonawanda border.
That spot is a few hundred feet from an intersection at Willow Ridge Drive, close to where two women were killed in separate incidents in 2013. And it’s about a half-mile from where a 62-year-old Amherst man was killed Aug. 30.
Thursday morning, the 67-year-old man had to cross seven lanes of traffic before the sun rose in an area with no street lights with traffic buzzing and the speed limit set at 45 mph.
He was crossing in a crosswalk, but against the traffic signal, according to Town of Tonawanda police.
“This was pedestrian error again,” Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joseph H. Emminger said.
The pickup driving south on Niagara Falls Boulevard had the right of way, investigators concluded. The driver was cooperating with authorities.
The pedestrian was taken to Erie County Medical Center and died of his injuries. Police have yet not released the names of the pedestrian, pending notification of his next-of-kin, nor that of the driver of the pickup.
While the Town of Tonawanda and Amherst have been jointly engaged in a five-month study on how to improve pedestrian safety along the stretch of Niagara Falls Boulevard where the accidents have occurred, the supervisors of both towns Thursday said it will be up the state to make it safer.
“It’s a state road, so it’s a state problem,” said Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein.
Both he and Emminger noted recent safety measures by the state, including the addition of more crosswalks along the boulevard, but they questioned how much those would help when pedestrians fail to take the proper precautions while crossing.
“I don’t know if the municipalities can do anything in a case like that, but we can make our recommendations to the state,” Emminger said.
Earlier this month, Emminger said a draft Phase I study of the corridor had been prepared by staff for both towns, which will eventually be forwarded to the state Department of Transportation.
Deadly pedestrian crashes in this stretch of the boulevard in recent years began in June 2013, when Jeraldine Tater was killed near the Willow Ridge Drive intersection.
Two months later, Lisa Monaco died trying to cross the boulevard at that intersection to get to a bus stop.
Sharon L. Alfierie died in February 2014 crossing the boulevard near East Robinson Road.
Before Thursday, the last pedestrian death happened Aug. 30, when John C. Strasser, 62, of Amherst was killed near where the boulevard intersects Thistle Avenue and Roger Chaffee Drive.
Four of the five happened when it was dark out.
Doug Hartmayer, spokesman for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, offered condolences to the man’s family on behalf of the agency Thursday morning after learning of reports the pedestrian had died crossing the boulevard to catch a bus.
Hartmayer urged Metro bus riders to use “an abundance of caution” when crossing roads as they travel to bus stops.
NFTA riders should exercise such caution, especially when crossing a road as busy as Niagara Falls Boulevard, Hartmayer said. Riders should cross at intersections with traffic-control devices whenever possible, he said.
The stretch of Niagara Falls Boulevard between Willow Ridge Drive and Ellicott Creek Drive gets 445 to 485 northbound cars and 514 to 561 southbound cars passing per hour between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., according to a 2010 state Department of Transportation study. The highest traffic in that area occurs between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., when 1,552 to 1,690 northbound cars and 1,478 to 1,485 southbound pass.
Last year, there were 3,672 crashes involving pedestrians upstate and on Long Island, according to state Department of Transportation statistics cited by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office. From 2011 through 2015, there have been 631 fatal pedestrian crashes upstate and on Long Island, according to DOT statistics.
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