Traffic light slated for Cambria Heights intersection

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The city has agreed to install a traffic light at the Cambria Heights intersection where a toddler and a motorcyclist were killed last month, officials said Tuesday.

The city Department of Transportation is slated to set up a signal at the intersection of 121st Avenue and Springfield Boulevard, where 2-year-old Janae Versai Forde, of Hollis, and martial arts instructor Curtis Battle, 33, of Jamaica, were killed in an accident at 10 p.m. July 19, said Keith Kalb, a department spokesman.

The light should be in place by December, a DOT release said.

"The recent tragedy at this location only illustrates further the need for safety improvements at this very busy Queens intersection," said state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans). "These traffic safety upgrades by the New York City DOT will help create a safer intersection for both motorists and pedestrians alike."

The accident unfolded when Janae, her mother and cousins were driving to the park to catch fireflies. Viviann Rodriguez, Janae's mother, was driving west on 121st Avenue and had stopped at the Springfield Boulevard intersection before trying to cross. Battle, who had recently opened a martial arts school on Merrick Boulevard, was traveling south on Springfield Boulevard and rammed into Rodriguez's car, police said.

Smith joined other elected officials and the families of the two victims at a news conference following the crash to call for a traffic signal.

The city Department of Transportation last studied the intersection in 1997 to determine if a traffic light was needed. Based on traffic flow and volumes, the agency decided against installing the light, Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) told a July news conference.

"The street is a lot more congested than in 1997," Comrie said at the conference. "We have to make sure we don't have any other tragedies."

A traffic signal study can take up to 12 weeks and includes factors such as vehicle and pedestrian volume, traffic speed and accident history.

"I applaud the quick action of the DOT and am confident that this Springfield Boulevard intersection will prove to be a safer milieu for the countless pedestrians and drivers who utilize it on a daily basis," Smith said in a statement.

While the study was being conducted, the DOT set up a four-way stop sign, increased lighting and limited parking near the intersection's corners to make the crossing safer, a DOT spokeswoman said the week after the crash.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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