Consultants Say Stoplight Might Help Bridgehampton Traffic Flow
By Stephen J. Kotz
“Sorry for the delay. I got stuck in traffic, which was apropos for today’s meeting,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman when he arrived at the Bridgehampton Community House a few minutes late for a town board work session on Thursday to discuss proposed traffic safety measures for that hamlet’s Route 27 commercial corridor.
Raymond DiBiase, executive vice president of L.K. McLean Associates, a Brookhaven engineering firm hired earlier this year to study potential fixes for the road, deferred from making specific recommendations, although he told the board the consultants are leaning toward an approach that would focus prominently on the intersection of Route 27 and School Street and Corwith Avenue near the Candy Kitchen.
One possible solution would be to petition the New York State Department of Transportation to install a new stoplight and crosswalks at that corner, Mr. DiBiase told the board.
Another area that will likely be addressed is the corner of Route 27 and the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike and Ocean Road, near the hamlet’s war monument, where the consultants said an additional crosswalk on the south side of the street between Almond restaurant and the Nathaniel Rogers House might also improve safety.
Town officials have said they not only want to improve pedestrian safety but also help traffic flow more smoothly on the road, which is often backed up in both directions, while avoiding simply pushing that traffic to back roads.
Vincent Corrado, an engineer with L.K. McLean, said the firm hoped to have its final recommendations ready for the town board’s approval sometime this summer. After that, it is expected to take several months to a year to design the proposed improvements and get state approval, where necessary.
The town has been promised $700,000 in state funding to pay for traffic safety projects along the hamlet’s commercial area, and Mr. DiBiase said improving access to municipal parking lots, improving on-street parking, making existing pedestrian crosswalks safer and lowering the speed limit from 30 to 25 mph are all on the table.
Mr. DiBiase said there had been 386 accidents along the highway in Bridgehampton in the past three years, most of them minor fender benders, but he said there had been 11 accidents involving motor vehicles and pedestrians or bicyclists, including one that claimed the life of the cookbook author and caterer Anna Pump in October 2015.
Consultants from L.K. McLean and town officials, including Christine Fetton, the director of municipal works, and Tom Neely, its director of public transportation and traffic safety, have been meeting in recent months with community groups including the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee, Bridgehampton Fire Department and representatives of the local business community to seek suggestions.
Improving crosswalks at the Hampton Library, Thayer’s Hardware, the Candy Kitchen and the Bridgehampton Post Office have been high on the agenda. Proposals include “bumping out” curbs into the parking lane near crosswalks, and possibly adding raised islands in the center of the street, so pedestrians are more visible. The crosswalk fixes would include adding signs and lights to further alert motorists to the presence of crosswalks.
Officials made it clear they were not happy with a crosswalk at the Hampton Library, which has lights embedded in the pavement that are supposed to flash when a pedestrian enters the crosswalk. The system has proved problematic, especially in the winter when plows hit the lights and snow and ice allow moisture to seep into the wiring.
Mr. DiBiase said one way crosswalks could be improved would be to install a system that would shine a light across the roadway from bollards on the sidewalk when a pedestrian wanted to cross.
Mr. Schneiderman said he favored a crosswalk solution that would regulate when pedestrians can cross the street. Allowing them to continually interrupt the traffic flow can result in further traffic backups, he said.
Noting that the road is often a virtual parking lot, Mr. Schneiderman said many motorists find it necessary to use side roads to avoid the congestion. “People would be thrilled to be going 25 miles per hour,” he said. “Thrilled.”
Several community members urged the board to take steps that would discourage motorists from speeding up once they cleared the worst bottlenecks in the central business district.
Ron White, the president, of the Bridgehampton School Board, asked the board to make sure any improvements extend as far east as the school, which, he said, will be undertaking a major expansion in the coming years that will likely result in the facility being used more by a growing school community.
Mr. White said he was among a group of Bridgehampton School seniors who were crossing the street in front of the school on a Friday night just before their graduation in 1998 when one of their classmates, Tiffane Walker, was struck and killed by a passing vehicle. “She woke up, asked what happened, lay back down, and we never talked to her again,” he said.