ITHACA, N.Y. –– In July 2021 two teenage girls were injured in a hit and run on the 1400 block of Trumansburg Road. Both were transported to Cayuga Medical Center to be treated for injuries sustained in the incident, though one of the girls, Sophia Nickerson, died due to her injuries. The drunk driver responsible for hitting the girls was arrested.

In the wake of Nickerson’s death, a GoFundMe campaign was started on behalf of her family. While it cannot alleviate the family’s pain, it can help with financial stress during a difficult time. 

“Unfortunately, this tragedy is accompanied by enormous financial burden, from medical bills, to funeral expenses, to time off from work devoted to grief and healing,” the campaign, started by family friend Kathleen Spooner, stated.

Since the incident, a petition has been created to make pedestrian conditions safer on Rt. 96 (Trumansburg Road) from 55 mph to 45 mph. It specifically addresses this speed limit change in the area between Cayuga Medical Center and Iradell Road, as well as visitors to Indian Creek Farm and new signage. The petition is directed at the Town of Ithaca Board, the Tompkins County Legislature, the state’s Department of Transportation and New York State Assemblymember Anna Kelles. 

The petition requests a sign in support of the speed limit reduction and yellow pedestrian signage at the intersection of Dubois Road and Rt. 96. The reasoning is that there is a high volume of traffic, excessive speeding, a blind curve in the road and recent accident history that included a pedestrian death.

“Due to the volume of traffic, excessive speeding, a blind curve in the road, the lack of pedestrian facilities, and the recent accident history, including a pedestrian fatality, we believe that a 45 MPH speed limit between the Cayuga Medical Center and Iradell Road is more in keeping with the residential character of the neighborhood,” states the brief petition. 

Kelles has confirmed that the pedestrian death referred to in the petition is Nickerson’s.

In order for this petition to be addressed, it should contain signatures from at least 50 percent of the owners of properties on the road. The process is then a lengthy one, detailed to the Ithaca Voice by Ithaca Town Supervisor Rod Howe. 

The typical response to speed limit reduction or calming efforts has to go through the state, as the Town of Ithaca is only able to make recommendations. If a petition is prepared and has sufficient support, it will be forward to the Town Board, who then decides whether or not to refer it to the Public Works Committee for review. If there aren’t actually 50 percent of the residents of the road signing the petition, the petition must further pass from the Town of Ithaca to the Tompkins County Highway Superintendent and then up to the state’s Department of Transportation for a study, maybe as long as one year, and approval decision. 

If there are 50 percent or more of the street’s residents supporting the change, then the petition is submitted to Howe and the Town Board, discussed and likely sent to the Public Works Committee for review and comment, then back to the Town Board for potential approval. 

“As you can see, it is a rather long process […] and that was pre-COVID,” Howe said.

Mikayla Rovenolt

Mikayla Rovenolt interns with the Ithaca Voice and is also a contributing writer for Queers for a Cause, an online based Lgbtq news and advocacy blog. Tips or stories? Contact mikaylarovenolt@gmail.com.