NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Sandray Lemay-Callahan was killed crossing Route 1, one of the tri-state area's most dangerous highways for pedestrians on a Wednesday night last fall.
Sadly, her death was one of many on the route that traverses Middlesex County and has historically connected New Brunswick to cities like Trenton, Elizabeth, Newark, and Jersey City.
More than 16% of pedestrian deaths in Middlesex County occurred on the fabled highway.
Around 6:30pm on November 6, the 56-year-old Lemay-Callahan was struck by a vehicle near an onramp connecting Routes 18 and 1. Her injuries proved fatal, and she was pronounced dead at Robert Wood Johnson University four hours later.
"The individual driving the vehicle which struck her remained on the scene and is cooperating with the investigation," said Captain JT Miller. "There are no charges at this time."
Year after year, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign has named the portion of US Route 1 that runs through Middlesex County as one of the deadliest in the state for pedestrians.
According to the campaign's data, over the course of six years, 14 of Middlesex County's 86 pedestrian fatalities occurred on Route 1.
"In the three years from 2010 to 2012, 442 pedestrians lost their lives on New Jersey’s roads. More must be done to ensure the safety of all and prevent needless deaths," reads the report.
Lemay-Callahan's recent death was not included in the fourteen fatalities, because the campaigns data goes through 2012.
In the latest rankings, Route 1 in Middlesex County was determined to be the third most dangerous road for pedestrians in the state, and tied for tenth most dangerous in the tri-state region.
Last year, the campaign had ranked the road tied for the most dangerous in the state.
This year, the Middlesex County section of US-1 tied with Second Avenue in Manhattan, Merrick Road in Nassau County, NY, and Route 27A in Suffolk County, NY.
The most dangerous road in New Jersey was determined to be the section of US-130 running through Burlington County, with US-30 in Camden County declared the second most dangerous.
According to NBToday's analysis of available state records, at least 26 pedestrians have been killed in accidents on Highway 1 in Middlesex County, from the start of 2001 until mid-2012.
THE FATALITIES OF HIGHWAY ONE
Of the pedestrians who lost their lives on Route 1 during this time period, four were killed in the short section of US-1 that runs through New Brunswick.
One was struck on December 26, 2002, and the next was somewhere near the intersection of Rt. 18 and Rt. 1 on October 14, 2005, on a rainy evening.
Then two fatalities occurred on the same foggy night on October 5, 2007 into the early morning hours of October 6, 2007.
Both accidents occurred at a ramp leading off the highway onto Route 18.
The first pedestrian killed was 45-year old Giuseppe Tita, on the ramp from Highway 1 north to Route 18 north. Tata was struck at 11:28 pm by a 1999 Nissan Altima, driven by Claudette Cox-Frances of Deptford Township.
Later, 69-year-old Loretta Jones was killed on Route 1 going in the other direction, just ahead of the Route 18 bridge over the highway.
Jones had no identification on her, and Jamie McAndrew, a 19 year old of Milltown, was driving the 2006 Saturn Ion that killed her at 3:24 in the morning.
Neither tragedy occurred at a pedestrian crossing.
The highway was wet on all four occasions, nobody was driving drunk, and nobody was using a cell phone, according to state records.
But many more died on the other 25 miles of US-1 that run through the county, particularly in Edison and Woodbridge Townships.
On August 24, 2010, a young 21-year-old woman named Bianca Yodice was taking her morning stroll to work at a child-care center, the Little Genius Academy in Edison.
Yodice started across Route 1 at a red light. Cynthia Polynice was driving a silver 2001 Lexus, which slammed into Yodice, veered off the highway, hit an electricity pole, and flipped upside down onto cars parked at a BMW dealership.
The 5:50am accident closed the northbound lanes of the highway until 7:30, while the southbound lanes remained shut until 12:30pm.
Later that year, 86-year-old Domenico Bellizzi was killed at a crosswalk on Route 1 in North Brunswick, just to the south of New Brunswick, on December 13.
He was struck by a taxi belonging to the Go-Express Company of Monroe Township.
Peter Jacob, a 41-year-old Somerset County resident, was walking along Highway 1 in South Brunswick, on January 20, 2011, when a 39-year-old woman ran him over with a Mitsubishi Galant.
Pedestrians have not only been killed on Route 1 by getting run over.
In 2010, one person fatally jumped from one of the two Route 1 bridges connecting New Brunswick and Edison.
Another man jumped off the same bridge in 2012, but survived and was rescued by New Brunswick authorities.
WHY IS ROUTE 1 SO DANGEROUS FOR PEDESTRIANS?
One of the nation's most famous highways, Route 1 runs from Florida to Maine, cobbled together out of a network of shorter roads.
Highway 1 is an older highway that traffic engineers have attempted to turn into more of a limited-access highway or freeway.
The highway connecting Trenton and New Brunswick largely dates back to 1803, and was once known as the Trenton and New Brunswick Turnpike.
The portion running from New Brunswick northbound goes back at least to the 1920's.
In New Brunswick, it's been home to the city's only major department store, several restaurants, the Howard Johnson's hotel, and a flea market that has since been demolished and redeveloped into a movie theatre.
The sprawling Raritan Crossing apartment complex rests on the other side of the highway.
A plan for a mixed-use housing development has been approved for the existing movie theatre parking lot, though it has stalled for years.
In recent years, some parts of Route 1 in southern Middlesex County and Mercer County have seen traffic lights and pedestrian crossings removed in favor of exit ramps and overpasses.
Also, the route between Edison and Woodbridge was altered to include more ramps at intersections.
Route 1 in Middlesex County today is a road with few pedestrian crosswalks, and those crosswalks are mostly north of the Raritan River, in Highland Park and Edison.
It has very few stretches with consistent sidewalks.
In several places, pedestrians are forced to walk along a narrow grassy knoll in order to avoid being hit by traffic, or sidle up along or behind a guard-rail at the edge of the road.
Tom Vanderbilt notes in his book, "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do," that drivers often don't see things they aren't looking for, such as pedestrians, especially on roads with high rates of average speed.
Over the years, US-1 has seen strip malls, car dealerships, and retail uses spring up throughout the county.
Those commercial areas are also a major source of entry and exit of cars on the road, and thus, a major source of distractions for the driver, who must often slow down in response.
According to the report, TSTC urged New Jersey’s elected officials and agency leaders to:
- Pass safe passing and vulnerable users bills.
- Create complete streets implementation plans in municipalities and counties that have passed complete streets policies and implement complete streets projects on state roads throughout the State.
- Continue to prioritize investment in projects that make streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists in the New Jersey
- Department of Transportation’s Capital Program.
- Fund construction of regional trails, such as The Circuit in southern New Jersey, and improve roads that provide access to trails to create safe biking and walking corridors.
- Increase collaboration between state, regional and local officials through trainings and workshops to promote design and construction projects that create biking and walking infrastructure throughout New Jersey