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Blumenthal to West Haven VA: ‘This site is a tragedy waiting to happen’

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WEST HAVEN – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal is running out of patience with the mounting list of pedestrian accidents on the West Haven VA campus.

“This site is a tragedy waiting to happen,” he said Friday.

Over the past several years, six pedestrians have been hit - and one was killed - while crossing the primary four-way intersection inside the West Haven VA campus, including Dr. Betsy Schulman, a VA employee, who is shown in surveillance video getting hit by a car and tumbling to the ground in December of 2014.

“You see the video and you see the volume of traffic in that area of vehicular traffic and pedestrian traffic.  It really is a very, very dangerous intersection,” said Schulman’s attorney, Gregory Cerritelli.

Schulman's accident came several months after a traffic and safety review, full of corrective recommendations, was handed to the West Haven VA in September of 2014.

“Nothing has been done until very recently, when the public spotlight has fallen again on the VA,” said Cerritelli.

Last month, the latest mishap occurred when a veteran, who is also a VA employee, was struck and became a Cerritelli client.

“He was squarely within a crosswalk and he was struck by a vehicle while attempting to cross into the other parking area,” said Cerritelli.

The VA says they've already made some improvements, including replacing the former diagonal crosswalks with standard ones. The video, in which Schulman’s accident occurs, shows that was already done when she was hit a year and a half ago.

“At my urging, the secretary of the VA has provided a schedule for steps that will be taken to elevate the crosswalk and raise the sidewalk,” said Blumenthal, a ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

He added the construction should be completed by Thanksgiving.

“If there is any slippage in the schedule, I am going to be all over the VA like a ton of wet concrete,” Blumenthal warned.

The VA Connecticut Healthcare System said that the only answer is to build a multilevel parking garage, with an enclosed elevated walkway. They are still awaiting funding approval.

Lack of financial resources is an issue, Blumethal acknowledges, but the VA’s “lack of focus is even more important,” he said.

Approximately 5,000 vehicles travel onto the campus each weekday.