DOT Said ‘No’ To Grant; Now, Pedestrian Struck

Woman Treated At Albany Med

DOT Said ‘No’ To Grant;

Now, Pedestrian Struck

Solemn police and firemen stand by as April Johnson, 32, is treated after she was hit by a car on Oneonta’s James Lettis Highway about 100 yards south of Main Street Monday, Dec. 30. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – In 2018, the City and Town of Oneonta collaborated on a state Department of Transportation grant that would have built sidewalks and increased lighting on both sides of Lettis Highway, from Main Street to Route 23, the Southside strip.

Mayor Herzig

“The roadway could be safer for pedestrians,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “It is used by pedestrians out of necessity to get to work or the shops on Southside. “But our application was not funded.”

At 7:45 p.m. Monday, Dec. 30, an Oneonta woman, April Johnson, 32, was struck by a car as she allegedly attempted to cross Lettis Highway just 100 yards from the Main Street intersection.

“The area is not marked for pedestrians and it is dimly lit,” said Police Chief Doug Brenner.
The driver was identified as David Shafer, 41, Otsego, who was driving northbound on the highway. “As he was changing lanes, she just appeared,” said Brenner. “He couldn’t stop in time.”

The front passenger side of the car struck Johnson, and the driver immediately stopped and got out of the car. The friend she was walking with called 911, and Oneonta Police responded to the scene.
“She was lying in the road, very seriously injured,” said Brenner. “The firefighters got her right into an ambulance.”

She was transported to Fox Hospital and transferred to Albany Medical Center, where she was admitted to the intensive care unit and remains in critical condition.

The preliminary investigation revealed that Shafer was not impaired by drugs or alcohol. However, Brenner said, he was issued a ticket for aggravated unlicensed operation, as his license was suspended for unrelated offenses.

“It’s a tragic situation for everyone involved,” said Herzig. “All of our thoughts are with her and her family.”

In October 2018, Katy Doughty, 45, Walton, was struck and killed by an eastbound car when she attempted to cross Route 23 near the Lettis Highway.

Herzig said that even though the city and town were denied the grant, the city “has every intention” of reapplying when the funding is announced again in 2020.

“Upgrading that walkway is part of our strategic plan,” he said. “We intend to continue working with DOT to secure enough funding to assist us in undertaking this multi-million dollar project.”

In addition to the sidewalks in the original proposal, the street lights would be upgraded and lighting installed along the walkway, as well as the installation of a green median.

“It will be more attractive and better connected to our downtown, but more importantly, it
is designed for pedestrian safety and use,” he said.

In 2016, the state DOT upgraded the lights and signage at the corner of Main and Chestnut, in the city, at Herzig’s request, after Daniel Heath, 75, was struck by a car that made a left-hand turn, and hit his head when he fell. He later died of his injuries.

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