CB8 Transportation Committee approves traffic light study in wake of pedestrian fatality

The dangerous three-way intersection at Kappock Street and Johnson Avenue that DOT plans to study to determine whether adding a traffic light is warranted.
Photos Adrian Childress

A dangerous three-way intersection in Riverdale where a longtime resident was killed in a traffic accident last month is already a safer place for commuters and pedestrians, with potentially more improvements on the way.

On Oct.5, the Community Board 8 Traffic and Transportation Committee approved a resolution that supports the city Department of Transportation’s (DOT) proposal to study a traffic signal and improve lighting at the Kappock Street and Johnson Avenue intersection.

Keith Kalb, deputy borough commissioner of the DOT, told the committee that DOT has already completed the installation of left-turn calming measures at the intersection, refurbished the crosswalk markings, upgraded the pedestrian ramp, and plan to move the lamp post to make the intersection more visible; DOT is also looking to add a traffic light at the intersection. Traffic calming measures are rubberized bumps that help encourage drivers to make the left turn onto Johnson Avenue at a safer angle and slower speed.

In September, Ruth Mullen, a well-known activist and writer from Riverdale, was struck and killed by an MTA bus at Johnson Avenue and Kappock Street. A preliminary investigation revealed that the bus was traveling south on Kappock Street and turned left onto Johnson Avenue when it hit Mullen, 68, while she was crossing the street. Based on eyewitness accounts, the bus rolled through the stop sign and hit Mullen. The driver, unaware, kept driving and only after someone yelled did the bus finally stop.

A makeshift memorial was erected in Riverdale last month for the late Ruth Mullen, who was struck by an MTA bus while attempting to cross the intersection.

Democrat City Councilman Eric Dinowitz and Democrat state Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz both praised the DOT for acting quickly to make the intersection safer.

“I’m pleased the DOT is working with the community and working with us,” the assemblyman said.

Local residents have long expressed concern about pedestrian safety at the Johnson-Kappock intersection, which is a frequently used thoroughfare that connects the Spuyten Duyvil neighborhood with nearby Kingsbridge. It is also a common pass-through for people connecting from the Henry Hudson Parkway to the Major Deegan Expressway as well as the Broadway Bridge. The intersection also serves as a bus stop for several major bus routes, including the Bx10, Bx20, BxM1, BxM2 and BxM18 lines.

Board Member Camelia Tepelus said the primary issue is the light pole right at the bus stop near the intersection does not have lighting, which makes driving at night quite dangerous.

“The light truly to me is an essentual thing,” she said.

Riverdale Resident Mary Ellen fully supports a traffic light at the intersection and hopes it happens sooner rather than later.

“What are the chances of actually getting a light?” she asked. “I lived there as a kid. People always come flying down. I strongly feel a traffic light should be there.”

However, others like resident Sue Dodell feel the issue is more about enforcement of the area. She said if more cops were stationed at that intersection and in the community maybe less people would speed.

The full board voted Oct. 12 to support the DOT proposal to study a traffic signal and improve lighting.

Reach Jason Cohen at jcohen@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bronxtimes and Facebook @bronxtimes.