Growing up on Long Island, I have noticed many changes over the years. One thing that has not changed is Sunrise Highway.
I must give credit to Nassau County for committing tax dollars to revitalize Merrick Avenue, Babylon Turnpike, and Merrick Road. The brick sidewalks, gazebo at the Merrick Station, and the old fashion lighting bring about a certain charm to the community. Adding to that, the Merrick Library is an excellent destination for residents of all age groups with a great environment for leisure and learning.
Even the MTA added an elevator to the Merrick Station and a new ticket area. With all of these positive capital projects here in Merrick, why has New York State ignored Sunrise Highway?
For those that may be unaware, Sunrise Highway (Route 27) is a state controlled and maintained roadway much like the Southern State Parkway. As we have seen continued improvement on our local roadways, the State has been a less than stellar neighbor and has ignored the safety and revitalization of Sunrise Highway. Over the last few years, there have been a number pedestrian fatalities combined with automobile accidents. As traffic continues to grow, these incidents appear to be growing in frequency.
In January, a neighbor was fatally injured at the corner of Hewlett Avenue and Sunrise Highway. In 2010, a 14 year old girl lost her life in Wantagh at the corner of Wantagh Avenue and Sunrise Highway. If you live anywhere near Sunrise Highway, you know how dangerous it can be to cross even if you abide by the crossing signals. Even the crossing guards note the dangerous conditions.
The time has come for New York State to put some money to work in our community; we certainly send enough money to Albany. Just as a point of reference, based on the most recent New York Tax Liability Report (March 2011, using 2008 data), Nassau County is the second highest county in terms of tax liability behind New York County (Manhattan). Nassau County residents combined, contributed $2.9 billion in income tax to Albany. For the financial contribution we provide to New York State, it would be nice if we could obtain safer roadways in return.
In April, I sent a letter to the New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner asking her to conduct a study on the pedestrian crossing conditions along Sunrise Highway. Although a foot bridge (despite being ideal), may not be cost effective, other options may provide better alternatives for pedestrian safety without a significant cost. New York City has implemented a number of improvements along the West Side Highway and Queens Blvd which have greatly improved pedestrian safety. I have yet to hear a response from the DOT.
In addition to the safety issue, you cannot help but grow frustrated with the decay of the infrastructure along Sunrise Highway. Weeds on the side of the roadway and on the center median grow well above what would be deemed acceptable on someone’s lawn. In addition, cement medians are cracked with weeds growing all over. Ramps designed for residents with disabilities are falling apart with trees blocking crossing signals. Finally, curbs are cracked all along the roadway.
Why can’t Sunrise Highway look like Lido Beach Blvd with trees and maintained medians?
The attention, or lack thereof, that New York State has given to Sunrise Highway is not only obvious to us residents but also to those visiting our beautiful south shore beaches. Many of the points I addressed about Sunrise Highway can be said for Hempstead Turnpike as well. While I am grateful for the capital project granted for the Meadowbrook Parkway, I feel that Sunrise Highway is in much worse condition than the area that will be repaved on the Meadowbrook. I find it frustrating that when I travel on upstate NYS roadways, it appears that upstate roads are better maintained and improved, while the bulk of New York State revenue comes from downstate counties. We deserve a little attention.
Given the towns affected by Sunrise Highway, no one civic association can effectively voice concerns. Perhaps we need to consider forming a south shore coalition to have an effective voice in Albany. I encourage all residents to contact your elected officials if you support this cause.