For years, Sag Harbor, like many other communities, has used a portable radar unit connected to a sign that flashes a motorist’s speed as a way to help control traffic at various spots in the village. But earlier this month, the village installed four permanent radar monitors that also collect data about that traffic — with some surprising results.
A week after the monitors were set up, village Police Chief Austin J. McGuire said he was surprised to learn that the unit on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike on the south side of Mashashimuet Park had recorded 22,091 vehicles entering the village during the week from November 3 to November 10.
“I couldn’t even imagine that number during a week in November — the off season,” he said this week.
Another unit that measures westbound traffic on Jermain Avenue between Joels Lane and Archibald Way recorded 16,387 cars, but there were bugs in the computer system that knocked it offline for two days, the chief said. A third unit on Bay Street at High Street rang up 8,592 vehicles, while a fourth unit on Long Island Avenue near Bayview Avenue, which also experienced some initial snafus, lagged with only 5,264 vehicles.
When Chief McGuire shared his results with the Village Board on November 10, Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy had a one-word response. “Wow,” she said.
“A post-peak summer week?” asked Trustee Aiden Corish. “Wow.”
“We have an issue and I don’t know what we can do about it,” the chief responded.
The discussion of the new speed monitors followed a request by Carol Williams, a resident of Jermain Avenue, for the village to explore new traffic-calming measures to discourage drivers from using the village as a bypass.
“I’m sure you’ve noticed that traffic has increased exponentially, especially this past year,” she said. “The speed and the quantity of cars, and especially trucks, gong by every day is making life impossible for us. Sag Harbor is not meant to be a bypass, and it is becoming one.”
The chief said he doubted he could do much about discouraging motorists from using village streets. But he said the new monitors would come in handy in helping provide police with a guideline for where to concentrate their enforcement efforts — because not only do the monitors count vehicles, they keep track of how many are exceeding the speed limit, by how much, and when they are doing it.
“If we find out that from 3 to 6 p.m. lots of people are going 10-plus miles over the speed limit, that tells us it would be a good idea to concentrate our enforcement activities at that time,” he said.
The new speed monitors do not come cheap. The four units cost a total of $21,000, and it cost the village another $16,000 to mount them with 6-foot deep concrete footings and metal poles and a 2-foot square mounting pad at ground level.
Chief McGuire said he is looking into one other new tool, a portable monitor that looks like a nondescript metal box. That monitor, which would cost about $3,000, records information about passing traffic but does not have an electric sign flashing the speed back at the motorist. The advantage, Chief McGuire said, is that people will not automatically hit the brakes when they see the flashing sign, so it will provide a truer picture of just how fast people drive through the village.