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Veteran advocates press for safety changes at new Natl. Cemetery in Genesee County

As it turns out the Veterans Administration and NYSDOT have decided to do another traffic safety study there.

PEMBROKE, N.Y. — A crossroads near the new National Veterans Cemetery in Pembroke has raised red flags for some local vet advocates and their families. They feel there are major safety issues there with one fatal crash that already took the lives of two veterans.    

Some tombstones of our fallen servicemen and women are already in place at the Western New York National Cemetery in Pembroke with room for more than 96,000. And tragically as The Buffalo News reported two more older veterans were just laid to rest here last year. That's because they were killed at this access intersection of Route 77 and Indian Falls Road actually in this car crash after attending a funeral at the cemetery for a close friend and fellow veteran back in September 2021.   

Police say one of those veterans apparently ran a stop sign and pulled right into the path of a tractor-trailer. 

That intersection in this rural area carries traffic moving at 55 miles per hour and perhaps higher with speeding vehicles. Marlene Roll is a legislative affairs chief with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and has been through that intersection many times. She says, "It's a fast road. Route 77 particularly heading north from the Thruway is a heavy truck route. It's 55 miles per hour through there - lends to being a bit more difficult for timing and looking at the traffic you know coming at you."  

That is especially the case for the elderly and perhaps grieving individuals leaving the cemetery.

As it turns out the Veterans Administration and NYSDOT have decided to do another traffic safety study there. That is after doing one previous to the opening of the cemetery last year when they decided to add, as The Buffalo News reports, a right turn lane for northbound Route 77 traffic onto Indian Falls.

The newspaper also reports that the new cemetery director James Metcalf II and VA planner Peter Rizzo, who we got to know from advocacy against the Buffalo school speed zone cameras, both repeatedly tried to get their bosses at the Veterans Administration headquarters in Washington, DC  to make safety changes at the intersection. They further claim that both were of them were disciplined and told to back off. 

But Roll of the VFW points out " We stand with the whistleblowers. Employees of the federal government and particularly the VA have a duty to disclose such things."

And On Monday 2 On Your Side asked US Senator/Majority Leader Charles Schumer about the whistleblower's case. He said, "I think they did the wrong thing when the new VA director came in. I brought it to his attention. We did get a different kind of look at it and I believe they are investigating now. I've asked them to do that."

Schumer added, "I am very hopeful there will be a thorough investigation, and those who tried to stifle the whistleblowers will be called to account."   

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