Town starts cutting away the Hurst Road “jump,” site of 3 teen deaths

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair

In the early-morning sunlight, highway department workers begin to regrade Hurst Road. They will tear up a section 100 feet long and as wide as the road, to smooth down the last hill on the road, which is abrupt and allows speeding drivers to get their cars airborne. The area has been the site of two fatal crashes, one of them this past spring.

GUILDERLAND  — The hill on Hurst Road that has been the site of two fatal crashes involving teenage thrill-seekers is being regraded to a gentle slope.

Dmitry Gelfand, the father of 17-year-old Alyssa Gelfand, who was killed on Hurst Road in a crash in May, said this week, “It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing that the town is doing. Any effort that the town makes with regard to this situation and this road that may potentially save one life would be monumental.”

Crews broke through the blacktop on Hurst Road early Wednesday morning, to find the depth of the water main. Over the next two days or so, they will tear up and regrade a 100-foot section of the road, to do away with the notorious “jump” that for years has drawn young motorists riding down the road at elevated speeds in hopes of getting the car’s wheels off the ground and sailing through the air off this hill.

There have been two fatal crashes near this spot, one in the year 2000 and the other this May, both of cars that crashed into the trees after traveling Hurst Road at high speeds. The crash 17 years ago caused the deaths of teenagers Korey Efaw and Melissa Herzog, while the one this spring killed 17-year-old Alyssa Gelfand. The site is on a rural residential road near routes 146 and 158, between Guilderland Center and Altamont.

Soon after the May 28 crash, Steve Oliver, Guilderland’s highway superintendent, said, “We’ll be doing something about it.

 

 

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair

Photos of Alyssa Gelfand, 17, have been tacked to the tree where an informal memorial grew up soon after her May 28 crash. She was driving. Her two passengers, who were also Guilderland High School students, were taken to Albany Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, and recovered.

 

Oliver said this week, explaining why the town had decided to regrade the road, “The road is engineered for 30 miles an hour. It’s not a defect in the road for the speed limit posted.” But, he said, Hurst Road has rolling hills in it, followed by the one the highway department will be cutting out, which is “not so rolling” but “kind of abrupt.”

Because of that last hill, he said, “If you’re not doing the speed limit, if you’re doing 80-plus miles per hour, you can make your car go off the ground.”

The work being done this week involves “taking that one pretty dramatic hump out of the road,” Oliver said.

“First we’re going to box it out,” Oliver said, referring to digging around the outline of the 100-foot section of road. Workers will then set the grade to the new slope and pour gravel over the section. Blacktopping will be done, probably next week, Oliver said. The crew needs to take down five trees and dig out their stumps, Oliver said, because the work will expose the roots.

Supervisor Peter Barber said Tuesday, “We recognize that there’s been a number of tragic accidents on the road. Even though it may meet highway standards, we know it attracts people to do things that are unsafe. Right after this accident, Steve and I sat down and had decided to do something, but did not want the word to get out. We wanted to do it quietly, because we were concerned about the possibility of people coming out for a last-minute ride.”

The town has been waiting for engineers from the county to come out and put in the grade stakes, showing how far down to cut. Hurst Road is a town road, Oliver said, and the reason the county is involved is because Guilderland doesn’t have an engineering department, and the county does and will do the work as a shared service.

The crew worked Wednesday morning in view of a memorial to Alyssa Gelfand, whose photos are tacked to the tree where she crashed.

Gelfand’s obituary called her “a charismatic leader, a cherished friend, and the most-beloved family member” and said that she “vigorously left this Earth on a journey to a far more beautiful world.”

Gelfand’s father said this week, “The gift of life, it’s a very precious thing.”

 

More Guilderland News

  • During an Oct. 6 town board meeting, Supervisor Peter Barber noted that Guilderland had been prepared for a difficult 2021 budget in part because of planning that began long before anyone had heard of the coronavirus. 

  • Borrego Solar is seeking variances to be able to clear-cut more trees than code allows and to have its solar panels located closer to all the neighbors’ property lines than what is currently allowed by law, which was one of the reforms included in the April amendments package to the town’s solar law.

  • The now-1,200 square-foot Pakistani restaurant will be housed in the former Subway sandwich shop. The space has been under construction for some time, but now, with a permit in hand, it can open for business. Nadia Raza, Curry Patta’s owner, told The Enterprise she anticipates opening the weekend of Dec. 4.

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