GENESEO – A bill awaiting the signature of Gov. Andrew Cuomo would name a stretch of Route 63 in the town of Geneseo for a SUNY Geneseo freshman killed when a tractor trailer struck her vehicle at the state highway’s intersection with Court Street.
Savannah Williams was on her way home for the holiday season the afternoon of Dec. 20, 2016, when a tractor trailer struck her car in a t-bone collision at the bottom of Court Street. She died at the scene at the age of 18.
Senator Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, and Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes, R-Caledonia, sponsored legislation in both chambers of the state legislature to name the portion of Route 63 between its intersections with Court Street and Route 20A the Savannah Marie Williams Memorial Highway as a means of honoring Williams’ memory. Signage designating the roadway as such would also be installed.
In a statement regarding the legislation, Williams’ family voiced its gratitude “for those who were instrumental in honoring Savannah with the bill renaming the section of road in Geneseo.”
“From the moment we stepped on campus for the first time, Savannah and our family knew that Geneseo was a place of wonderful people that were a lot like our Norwich home,” continued Williams’ family in its statement. “This has been proven time and again. Thank you to the entire Geneseo administration, New York State Senate and the Assembly for all they have done for the memory of Savannah. We hope everyone who reads Savannah’s name as they pass through take a moment to reflect on the passions of life that Savannah had and share the kindness she had in her heart. Hakuna Matata.”
The bill passed the Senate and Assembly June 9 and was referred to Cuomo, who is expected to sign it. Votes were unanimous in both chambers. “While Ms. Williams was a student at SUNY Geneseo for just a few months, she quickly became an active member of the college community,” said Gallivan in a statement. “Designating a portion of the highway adjacent to the campus in her memory is not only appropriate, it serves as lasting reminder of the positive impact she had on fellow students, teammate, faculty and staff.” Added Byrnes: “I’m glad I could help in advancing this legislation in the Assembly. I know that renaming this section of highway is very important not only to the family but to our entire community.”
Williams, who was born in the village of Hamilton and raised in Norwich, Chenanago County, was a biochemistry major at SUNY Geneseo. She harbored a dream of working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help find a cure for cancer and was a member of the SUNY Geneseo women’s basketball team.
A state Department of Transportation study of the Route 63 corridor from 2003 identified the intersection where Williams’ died as a high accident location.
About a year after she died, DOT announced it would install a roundabout at the intersection as part of a broader project to replace the existing bridge that carries Route 63 over the Genesee River, just north of its Court Street intersection. The bridge is 70 years old and is considered “structurally deficient” by DOT.
Speaking at the time to the benefits of roundabouts, Kevin Bush, DOT’s Region 4 director, said they force motorists to slow down. Motorists also only have worry about traffic coming from one direction
“You’re not turning left in front of somebody, so it really reduces the number of accidents and the severity of accidents,” he said. “We think it is a very good solution. It forces the trucks to slow down right through there too because they can’t negotiate it at a high speed, so we think it’s a really good alternative.”
Williams is survived by her parents, Mark and Shari Williams, and two older brothers, Alexander and Zachary.