Following the bus crash last month on I-84 in Orange County that tragically killed two adults and injured dozens of Farmingdale High School students, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Representative Pat Ryan today called on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to assist New York State and local officials with the creation of an emergency vehicles-only access road, also known as a “crash gate” on I-84. The lawmakers explained that a crash gate for I-84 was first proposed over a decade ago, but the original proposal was never finalized. Now as New York State and community officials work to resubmit proposals for a crash gate, the representatives said it is imperative that FHWA work with stakeholder to improve safety of the road and ensure first responders have the support they need to save lives.
“The tragic bus crash in Orange County last week that took the lives of two beloved Long Island educators and seriously injured dozens of Farmingdale High School students rightfully has residents across New York concerned about the safety of Interstate 84 and the ability of first responders to quickly reach accidents in a more expeditious manner,” said Senator Schumer. “We are urging the Federal Highway Administration to support New York State, the Slate Hill Fire District and local officials in improving emergency response times on I-84 by greenlighting this long desired safety project to create an emergency vehicles-only access road. In an emergency every minute and second counts, and it is vital that our communities have every resources available so our first responders can save lives in Orange County and beyond.”
“The Orange County bus crash was a horrific tragedy, and I’m committed to doing everything in my power to help emergency personnel respond more quickly to these types of accidents in the future,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I’m calling on the Federal Highway Administration to help New York State and the Slate Hill Fire District establish a ‘crash gate’ on I-84, which would provide emergency access to the highway and significantly reduce response times. This new road has the potential to save lives and I urge the Federal Highway Administration to provide any and all assistance requested.”
“I’m demanding the Federal Highway Administration immediately construct a crash gate, which would cut down on response time and allow our brave first responders to do their job more efficiently. I will continue working with my partners in local, state, and federal government to make sure the tragic events of last month never happen again” said Congressman Pat Ryan. “Our heroic first responders have been calling for this to happen for years– I won’t stop until we get it done.”
Schumer, Gillibrand, and Ryan said there are numerous motor vehicle accidents and incidents that happen on this stretch of Interstate 84, and building an emergency entrance is critical to improving response time for our first responders and ultimately, saving lives. The reps explained that this is not the first time the lack of a “crash gate” on I-84 has caused great difficulty for emergency responders to act. Years ago, Orange County was faced with another devastating crash – spurring calls for a crash gate. Although New York State submitted plans for a crash gate, the project was never finalized.
Currently, the Slate Hill Fire District’s trucks can only access the highway in a roundabout way, which makes response times longer. The lawmakers said that last month’s crash demonstrates the troubling lack of access to I-84 that currently exists for first responders in the area. The Slate Hill Fire District’s closest entrance to I-84 is four miles from the firehouse, requiring its trucks to travel into another neighboring fire district just to enter the interstate. By constructing a first responders-only access road built between the eastbound and westbound highways, a crash gate would allow first responders to access I-84 faster and potentially save lives. According to the Slate Hill Fire District Chief, had such a crash gate been available last week, they would have been able to respond 5 to 10 minutes sooner.
“Having served in my local volunteer Fire Department, I know the importance of fast access to dangerous areas during an emergency. Local officials have long sought crash gate access and it is obviously time for the required approvals to be granted. Millions of people travel across Orange County’s three interstate highways each year and our local firematic and emergency services should be given every opportunity to quickly access emergency sites,” said Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus.
“It shouldn’t take a crash or catastrophe to get our state and federal agencies to act, but here we are. Local officials and first responders in Wawayanda have been calling for installation of a new emergency access point along this more than 10-mile stretch of interstate for over 20 years. And while our first responders did nothing short of heroic work to tend to those involved in the recent Farmingdale bus rollover, they need our help to do their jobs even more effectively — that starts with this long-overdue crash gate,” said State Senator James Skoufis.
A copy of Schumer, Gillibrand, and Ryan’s joint letter to the Federal Highway Administration appears below:
Dear Administrator Bhatt,
We write to request that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) assist New York State and the Slate Hill Fire District with the creation of an emergency vehicles-only access road, also known as a “crash gate,” on Interstate 84 (I-84) in Orange County, New York. In an emergency every minute, and second counts and establishing a crash gate would allow first responders to access accidents on I-84 in a more expeditious manner.
On September 21, 2023, a charter bus carrying marching band members from Farmingdale High School and their chaperones overturned on I-84 in Orange County, New York. This crash, which killed two adults and critically injured at least five students, demonstrates the troubling lack of access to I-84 that currently exists for first responders in the area. The Slate Hill Fire District’s closest entrance to I-84 is four miles from the firehouse, requiring its trucks to travel into another neighboring fire district just to enter the interstate. Once they do, the trucks must then circle back into their own jurisdiction to actually access the scene of an incident. It is clear that this long-standing problem must finally be resolved, which is why the local community and the New York State Department of Transportation are working together once again to submit a new request for a crash gate.
It is our understanding that this is not the first time the lack of a “crash gate” on I-84 has caused great difficulty for emergency responders to act. Years ago, Orange County was faced with another devastating crash – causing public outcry for a “crash gate.” Although New York State submitted plans for a crash gate, the project was never finalized between NYSDOT and FHWA. If such a crash gate had been available last week, according to the Chief of the Slate Hill Fire District, first responders could have gotten to the bus crash “between 5 to 10 minutes sooner.” Thus, as New York State and local officials finalize their request to FHWA, we urge you to work with New York State and the Slate Hill Fire District to create a “crash gate” to improve emergency response times on I-84. Such a crash gate would be a first responders-only access road, and would greatly improve response times going forward.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.