Mark Debald, Transportation Program Administrator
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) defines a Safety Assessment as a formal safety examination of an existing or planned transportation facility (e.g. road, intersection, sidewalk, or trail) by an independent, multi-disciplinary team of stakeholders (Safety Assessment Team). Regardless of where they are done or by whom, Safety Assessments strive to address potential safety issues and identify solutions that improve the safety of all road users – whether a walker, bicyclist, bus passenger, or driver. FHWA promotes the use of Safety Assessments as a cost effective tool to improve roadway safety. However, a Safety Assessment is not a quality control measure for reviewing a proposed design. With these tenets in mind, Safety Assessments attempt to answer three basic questions:
1. What elements of the road may present a safety concern: to what extent, to which road users, and under what circumstances?
2. What opportunities exist to eliminate or mitigate identified safety concerns?
3. Are there low cost solutions or countermeasures that would improve safety?
In 2012 the Council initiated a program of Safety Assessments to improve conditions on high-crash, County-owned highways. The impetus for this was two-fold: 1) a desire to leverage staff knowledge and federal planning funds to assist local communities and improve safety, and 2) a response to research conducted by the FHWA through its RSA program, and the New York State Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (NYSAMPO) through its Safety Assessment Guidelines. To date, the Council has completed three assessments:
1. CR9 (Beekman Rd) in the Town of Beekman
2. CR16 (North Quaker Ln) in the Town of Hyde Park
3. CR19 (Slate Quarry Rd) in the Town of Rhinebeck
in the 2008 NYSAMPO Safety Assessment Guidelines.
The Council chose these locations based on an analysis of crash data from the NYS Accident Location Information System (ALIS) database and input from the Dutchess County Department of Public Works (DCDPW) and local municipalities. The three locations, all with above average crash rates, have provided the Council with an excellent opportunity to apply the Safety Assessment process at the local level. The Safety Assessments adhere to the guidelines set forth
The Council’s third assessment dealt with a one-mile segment of Slate Quarry Rd from Route 9G to White Schoolhouse Rd. A winding, two-lane rural road, the segment experienced 59 crashes from 2009-2013, which resulted in one fatality and 26 injuries. Over the course of two-days in October 2014, a Team comprised of staff from the Council, DCDPW, NY State Police, County Sheriff’s Office, Rhinebeck Village Police Department, and Rhinebeck Town Highway Department, completed the assessment. Again, using observations from its field work and the RSA program, the Team developed a set of recommended short-term improvements that included improved shoulders, consistent signage, sightline improvements, and remarking the White Schoolhouse Rd intersection, which experienced a high share of crashes. The Team also identified long-term improvements such as realigning curves and physically reconfiguring the White Schoolhouse Rd intersection. DCDPW is currently developing a work plan to implement some of the recommendations. Please see the Final CR 19 (Slate Quarry Rd) Report (.pdf) for more information.