Delayed green: City fixing Ridge intersection decades after high-profile traffic deaths

Delayed green: City fixing Ridge intersection decades after high-profile traffic deaths
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

These mean streets are about to get a little nicer.

The city is finally making the dangerous nexus of Fort Hamilton Parkway and 92nd Street safer more than 20 years after a hit-and-run driver killed a woman and her 4-year-old daughter while they were crossing the intersection. The victim’s son is glad the fixes are coming, but they could have come sooner, he said.

“It’s totally great that they’re gonna do something that could prevent anyone else from getting killed there,” said Ridgite Michael McLeer, whose mother and step-sister were killed in the 1994 crash. “But I also feel heavy-hearted, wishing that somebody would have taken that initiative years ago. That corner was always bad.”

Department of Transportation crews are extending curbs at the intersection to shorten the distance it takes to cross the streets. The so-called “neck downs” will cut the distance to cross Ft. Hamilton Parkway by a quarter, and extensions on the 92nd Street side will also shorten the crossing time by a smaller margin, city plans show. Transportation officials will also halt all traffic for a few moments after each light change to allow pedestrians to get a head start crossing the street, according to information from the department.

The latter improvement is particularly important to McLeer.

“That’s great, because my mother was crossing with the light,” McLeer said.

Police never found the driver of the white box truck who struck and killed Donna and Michele Blanchard before fleeing down Ft. Hamilton Parkway. Their deaths garnered major media attention, but they weren’t the only people to be hurt in the intersection.

There have been eight crashes resulting in injuries since 2009, city data shows. The last collision was on Sept. 18, when two vehicles crashed but no one was injured, according to police data. The city designated it a high-priority intersection, according to a 2011 study.

City crews have made less dramatic safety improvements in the past — including painting brighter crosswalks and “stop lines” that prevent drivers from idling in the crosswalk, according to the local community board’s top staffer.

“We didn’t have those 10 years ago,” said CB13 district manager Josephine Beckmann. “They may seem simple, but they make the motorists stop well in advance of crosswalks.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Crossed over: A mural, wreath, and street sign memorialize Donna and Michele Blanchard, who were killed by a hit-and-run driver while attemtpting to cross the hazardous interseciton.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto