Bronx Zoo Accident: Highway Identified Last Year As One With Most Severe Safety Needs

 @LauraMatt
on May 01 2012 10:59 AM

The section of the Bronx River Parkway where the tragic SUV accident claimed the lives of seven family members on Sunday was again identified last year as one of the states' interchanges with the most severe safety needs.

The stretch of the Bronx River Parkway was listed in the U.S. Department of Transportation's 5 Percent Report as one with the most severe highway safety needs. The federal government requires that each state describe at least 5 percent of its locations that display this kind of need. In identifying those needs, each state must also provide the potential remedies to the hazardous locations identified as well as include estimated costs. They must also tell of any obstacles preventing them from implementing the solution other than costs.

New York identified three southbound areas along the Bronx River Parkway with such severe needs. Those areas are as follow:

-- Bronx River Parkway (Southbound): E 174th St overpass to Cross Bronx Expressway Overpass;

-- Bronx River Parkway (Southbound): Cross Bronx Expressway Overpass to north of Morris Park Ave Underpass; and

-- Bronx River Parkway (Southbound): On ramp from East Gun Hill Road to Off ramp to East Gun Hill Road

About $8 million is needed to repair the deadly highway. The work includes providing a standard deceleration lane and improving the sight distance at the 177th Street exit ramp, according to the report. Officials cited no impediments to the project, which is set to begin in 2016.

Back in 2008, the state identified the Bronx River Parkway (Southbound) E174th Street to E 180th Street as an area with such severe needs. The same deceleration lane for the exit ramp to E 177th Street was then listed as a potential remedy, but officials said that they would need to widen the highway to implement that proposed improvement. The cost for the project at the time was estimated at $7 million.

Three Generations Wiped Out

On Sunday, a 2004 Honda Pilot travelling southbound in the left lane of the Bronx River Parkway struck the center median and crossed over three southbound lanes before striking the curb. The SUV then went airborne and continued over the guardrail, finally falling approximately 59 feet into a wooded area of the Bronx Zoo. 

Police said they were called to the scene of the horrific motor vehicle accident at the Bronx River Parkway and  180 Street around 12:30 p.m. EDT Sunday. The EMS team that responded and pronounced the vehicle's seven occupants dead at the scene.

Police are still unsure what caused the accident that wiped out three generations of one family, and added that the investigation is ongoing. 

The NYPD has identified the dead as Maria Gonzalez, 45, the driver of the SUV; her daughter, Jocelyn Gonzalez, 10, was a third row passenger. Her sister, Maria Nunez, 39, was in the second row. Nunez's daughters Niely Rosario, 7, and Marly Rosario, 3, were third row passengers. The sisters' parents Jacob Nunez, 85, and Ana Julia Martinez, 81, were passengers in the front row and second row respectively.

Jose Perez, a family friend, told USA Today that the sisters' parents arrived in the U.S. three days ago from the Dominican Republic and were all headed to a celebration at Gonzalez's home.

No criminality is suspected, said NYPD Detective Cheryl Crispin, from the Office of the Deputy Commissioner Public Information.

She didn't say how fast the SUV was travelling, but the New York Daily News reported that the vehicle was driving at 68.5 mph before going over the guardrail.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has offered his condolences to the family. He also plans to talk to the different agencies about the safety issues on the Bronx River Parkway.

For the second time in a year, an accident on the Bronx River Parkway has led to a car falling off the highway to the streets below, Diaz said. In the coming weeks my office will reach out to the appropriate agencies to examine the safety issues on the Bronx River Parkway and to discuss potential solutions, such as road condition and barrier/fence height, to this issue.

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