The popular Wantagh bike path to Jones Beach State Park may be even more popular next summer now that New York State officials have agreed to build a guiderail along the Wantagh State Parkway to protect the estimated 1,000 daily bicyclists, runners and joggers who use the path during the peak season.
A more flexible and forgiving guiderail will have less potential to injure those who hit it, unlike a typical guardrail, state officials said. It will be a “cable-style” guiderail with metal posts 3’ high every 10’ with a rope-like metal cable along the approximately four-mile stretch of parkway’s northbound side that borders the path. The $800,000 guiderail project will be designed by Thanksgiving, put out to bid by February and built before next Memorial Day, officials said
“The cable-style is more transparent and less obtrusive than the beam style and we believe it is more aesthetically consistent with the historic nature of the parkway,” says Jennifer Post, spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Transportation. The agency had explored a guiderail proposal in the past but never followed through.
Post added that the parkway’s northbound right lane, which was closed this summer to create a buffer between traffic and the path’s users, will remain as is once the guiderail is installed. Rumble strips were also installed along the parkway since a local groundswell of supporters began calling for a guardrail. A proposal to add flexible delineators was dropped once the guiderail was decided on, Post said.
“The governor has taken this issue very seriously since it was presented to him,” says Marissa Shorenstein, spokeswoman for New York State Gov. David Paterson.
The decision follows a series of meetings with the governor, DOT officials, state and local lawmakers, as well as the family of Matthew Scarpati, the 19-year-old Dix Hills college student who was killed on the path this summer when an alleged drunken driver crashed into him. He was one of several people who had been struck by vehicles along the path over the years, but the only one who lost his life.
“We’re very grateful about what the governor has done,” says the James Scarpati, Matthew’s father.
He is not the only one happy with the decision.
“I am extremely pleased and grateful that these important new safety measures are moving forward so that we can prevent future tragedies,” State Sen. Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Merrick) said in a statement through his spokesman.
“Too often tragedy and sacrifice are required to accomplish what logic and forethought could not,” says Gina Russo, an advocate who had petitioned for a guardrail through her website, LIFun4Kids.com. “The Scarpati family know this to be true. We wish to thank them for their dignity and grace these past few months—all users of the bike path are indebted to you.”
Russo is one of several who have said that they would not use the path until a protective barrier is installed.
“It’s about time—it’s been something that’s been needed for a long, long time and I’m happy that I can finally take my grandchildren on it,” says Richard Schary, a Long Island environmentalist. He added that the state should also build a guardrail for the Mill Pond path where it runs parallel to the curved southbound stretch of the parkway between Sunrise Highway and Merrick Road.
It is unclear if the path, officially dubbed the Ellen Farrant Memorial Bikeway, will be closed during the guiderail’s construction.