By Stephen J. Kotz
An effort to improve pedestrian safety and relieve congestion on Bridgehampton’s Main Street has begun to creep forward, as Southampton Town officials and their consultants provided an update to the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee on Monday.
Raymond DeBiase, a vice president with the Brookhaven engineering firm L.K. McLean Associates, told the committee he was in the fact-finding portion of his work and wanted to hear what committee members thought should be done to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety.
Mr. DeBiase said he was collecting accident data and examining Montauk Highway from the Bridgehampton School to the Bridgehampton Commons shopping center with an eye toward “making pedestrians visible.”
He offered a number of solutions, from new pedestrian crosswalks that would direct light from LED bulbs across the road when a pedestrian is crossing, to other signs either hanging above traffic lanes or mounted on the side of the road to alert motorists of upcoming crosswalks to raised median in the center of the road near major crosswalks.
Mr. DeBiase said he also planned to meet with Bridgehampton business owners and members of the Bridgehampton Fire Department to get their input. Tom Neely, the town’s director of public transportation and traffic safety, told the committee the town board would schedule a special meeting at the Bridgehampton Community House on June 8, most likely at 10 a.m., to discuss its choices for the construction phase of the work.
Following the October 2015 death of cookbook author and store owner Anna Pump who was struck by a pickup truck as she tried to cross Main Street after dark, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle secured $700,000 in state funding for traffic safety measures in Bridgehampton. The town hired Mr. DeBiase’s firm earlier this year to undertake the design phase of the work.
All agreed traffic is too slow on a typical summer afternoon when bumper-to-bumper traffic is the norm but that it is often too fast, particularly at night, early in the morning or during the off-season.
“The speed limit is way too high,” said Bonnie Verbitsky, who said if it is posted at 30 miles per hour many driver still do 45 mph.
Carey Millard said the suggestion of adding raised medians in the center of the road might not work because many delivery trucks park there in the morning. Christine Fetten, the town’s director of public works, seemed surprised to hear that, saying it was illegal, but committee members responded that police are rarely around to enforce traffic laws in the hamlet.
Another committee member, Gay Lynch, a resident of Lumber Lane, said she was concerned that efforts to redirect some traffic flow off Main Street and onto side streets could have unintended consequences. “We have to preserve the quality of our towns and our residential streets,” she said. “We must do more to keep from becoming arteries.”
“There are many people who want our speed limits reduced,” said Pamela Harwood, the CAC’s chairwoman. “And enforced,” added Ms. Lynch.
Peter Feder suggested that rumble strips might be an option, especially on dark portions of the street outside the main business district, but Mr. DeBiase said they are typically opposed by nearby residents and business owners because they are so loud.
“It’s fairly obvious: lights all the way,” said Jenice Delano, who said the major issue is the road is simply too dark.
“It’s going to be irrelevant without lighting and enforcement,” added Victoria Quoss.