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Editorial: New lighting is an appropriate move to make a deadly stretch of road safer

Pedestrians crossing a 1.7-mile section of Niagara Falls Boulevard are taking a huge risk. They know it but do it, anyway. Mentally gauging the speed of oncoming traffic and hurrying across, most make it safely. But some don’t.

Since June 2013 five pedestrians have been killed trying to cross the busy road dividing Amherst and Tonawanda. Last week a woman was badly injured trying to cross the road.

Officials have said they believe that additional lighting will help reduce the toll by helping drivers spot pedestrians in the road. Now there is a plan for new streetlights along the boulevard north of Interstate 290.
That part of Niagara Falls Boulevard has been dubbed one of the deadliest stretches of road in the Buffalo area.

Last year Tonawanda and Amherst engaged in a monthslong study of how to improve pedestrian safety. Because it’s a state road, the state Department of Transportation had to be involved, along with National Grid.

The most recent pedestrian accident occurred last Wednesday when a 22-year-old Buffalo woman was struck at about 6:40 a.m., near Thistle Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda. She was listed in stable condition in Erie County Medical Center. No charges will be filed against the driver, according to authorities. It happened to be the same intersection where another pedestrian was killed in August. There is no traffic signal or crosswalk at the intersection.

Trying to navigate the boulevard on foot is challenging. The five-lane stretch of road is busy, with drivers routinely pushing the 45 mph speed limit. Signaled crosswalks are far apart. Darkness adds to the danger.
Four of the pedestrians were killed in the evening or early morning. Police indicated that at least three of the accident victims were crossing the boulevard to get to bus stops. Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority officials have urged Metro Bus riders to use caution.

Pedestrians must do what they can to remain safe. They should cross with the light at crosswalks when possible. Extra caution after dark should include wearing light-colored or high-visibility clothing. Drivers have to pay attention and obey the speed limit, especially between sunset and sunrise.

But pedestrians and drivers being what they are, the towns and state have a role to play to keep them safe. Additional lighting on the boulevard is a good step.

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