Ithaca, N.Y — ​You could hear the haunting echo of June 20 in the voices of those who witnessed a truck crash Wednesday on Hector Street/Route 79.

​“It’s the second time in just a couple months,” said one man who heard the explosive sounds of a dump truck smashing into trees and a utility pole after apparently losing its brakes while rolling downhill on the steep incline.

​The first time — June 20 — was the crash of a tractor-trailer into Simeon’s on the Commons, killing a young bartender, injuring other people and destroying the front section of a historic building. It will be many months before the popular eating spot can reopen.

​It will be many more than many months before Ithacans forget the horror of a crash scene that could have been far worse.

​And that, of course, was not really the “first time.” As a Voice examination of archives has shown, there have been numerous fatal crashes and close calls over the years at the bottom of the hilly roads descending into Ithaca.

​After June 20, city leaders, elected state representatives and transportation officials all pledged action, joined study groups and formed brainstorming teams.

​But “the second time in just a couple months” reminds the community that this is a here-and-now issue demanding attention here, and now. Whatever long-term process is in motion must recognize the need for immediate measures to reduce the risk from heavy trucks that lose their brakes as they head downward into the busiest and most populous parts of the city.

​This time, thankfully, no one died. Emergency responders expressed amazement at the limited damage. Do we need a next time to rekindle the sense of urgency that was so strong three-and-a-half months ago?

​The voices of witnesses Wednesday made painfully plain just how deeply these crashes have shaken the community’s psyche and sense of safety. ​

​It’s time for the wheels of government to accelerate, to begin moving faster than the wheels of these big rigs that continue to pose a lethal threat to the safety of Ithacans.


Simeon’s crash coverage


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.