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New York State Department of Transportation

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Mayor: No money for state road paving projects in Port Jeff until 2025

Vanessa Taranto looks at letters she’s sent to officials over the years. Photo by Kyle Barr

For nearly six years, village resident Vanessa Taranto has sounded the drum to the New York State Department of Transportation for a sidewalk running along the north side of West Broadway from Setauket into Port Jefferson Village. 

DOT plans to build a sidewalk on the north side of West Broadway up toward Setauket. Photo by Kyle Barr

In letter after letter, she asked for a chance to take her children down the road without the anxiety of walking in the opposite direction of cars. In 2013, she received a letter from state DOT saying there were no accidents involving pedestrians on the road, and it would have been cost prohibitive. This, especially, had her laughing to herself.

“People are driving up the hill during the day sometimes with the sun in their eyes, and it’s dangerous,” Taranto said. “I wrote back to everyone, ‘Does the Village of Port Jefferson have to wait for someone to die before they build a sidewalk five blocks long?’”

To people like the Port Jefferson mayor and the DOT, she became known as the “sidewalk lady.” 

Now her wish could soon become a reality, and those looking to climb the hill of West Broadway into Setauket may soon find their path aided with a new sidewalk.

DOT confirmed the plans to construct a new sidewalk by late next year along the north side of West Broadway, a quarter-mile stretch compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act connecting existing sidewalk sections between Hoyt Lane and Bayview Terrace.

While this is good news for those along the state-owned stretch of road, of course, there is a catch — and it’s a big one.

While bids have already gone out for a sidewalk along the north side of West Broadway, otherwise known as Route 25A, a true repaving of the steep road from the village into Setauket is missing funds on the part of the state. Mayor Margot Garant told the public at the last board meeting Aug. 5 the state DOT does not have any more funds for road repaving in all of New York until 2025.

Though this does not preclude the village going in to patch holes, complete repaving — usually an expensive endeavor — might not be in the pipe for another six years.

“It means I could not put in a request to have West Broadway repaved,” Garant said, “[DOT] said the best they could do was to have the maintenance crew go out and patch on the south side of West Broadway going down the hill.”

The DOT did not confirm or deny the lack of funds for projects until 2025, and instead said they were looking for other options for dealing with Route 25A.

“Route 25A (Main Street) was resurfaced three years ago between the ferry terminal and NYS Route 112 and we are exploring options for additional paving on Route 25A in the near future,” DOT spokesman Stephen Canzoneri said in an email. “We are in the process of scheduling a follow-up meeting with the mayor’s team to discuss these projects.”

Garant said she learned this in a meeting with DOT officials several weeks ago along with other village officials including Steve Gallagher, superintendent of the village Department of Public Works.

West Broadway is a steep hill climbing up toward Setauket, and several parts of that street are pockmarked with wide and deep potholes. Route 25A, which is otherwise known as Main Street before turning into West Broadway, travels all the way from Calverton into Queens at Long Island City. Taranto called the state of the road “a nightmare.”

Garant said while the village could ask the state for permission to go in and patch the worst parts of the road, the village Department of Public Works would not be keen on spending time and money on a road that should be handled by the state.

“If we’re going to do this, we should do it right and make it one continuous walkable community.”

— Margot Garant

Though repaving on West Broadway has been stymied, the north facing sidewalk is still in the pipe. One plan for the new sidewalk goes all the way down the north side of West Broadway until Beach Street, but the other would be pushed back to start after Bayview Terrace. Garant was adamant it should start by the bottom of the hill.

“If we’re going to do this, we should do it right and make it one continuous walkable community,” the mayor said. 

The mayor said the village will be having a follow-up meeting Aug. 27 with the DOT. 

The final decision comes down to DOT officials. Meg Danielson, a transportation analyst for the state DOT who will be meeting with village officials later this month, did not respond to requests for comment. 

Meanwhile, Port Jeff is gathering funds to repave several village-owned roads, including: Pine Tree Court, Nadia Court, Contessa Court, Roslyn Court, Peninsula Drive and Landing Lane at a total cost $349,404. Paving is being done by Rosemar Contracting Inc. of East Moriches. Previous quotes for repaving had come in at just under $500,000, according to village officials.

“Their quote was so wonderful that we added another street,” Garant said at the Aug. 5 board meeting. “That’s not to say there’s other streets in the village that need to be done.”

And despite the state of West Broadway, Taranto is looking forward to a chance to bring her children down into Port. For one of her daughters, Roxanne, who is on the autism spectrum, it’s an important opportunity to allow her some degree of independence as she grows toward high school.

It wasn’t just for her, Taranto said, nor her other daughter Maggie, but for the other 12 children — 11 girls and one boy — living on her block along Longacre Court, who she said have developed into a close-knit community. 

“If I can do this for all of those kids to keep them safe, that’s really my goal,” Taranto said.

A stormwater retention pond on Route 25A created by the state continues to cause problems for residents, including those living in the Village of Poquott. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Village of Poquott officials are keeping a close eye on a Route 25A stormwater retention pond directly outside of the hamlet.

Richard Parrish, Poquott’s stormwater management officer, sent a letter last month to New York State Department of Transportation calling for the state to fix persistent problems with the stormwater retention pond slightly east of Route 25A and Van Brunt Manor Road on the south side of the roadway.

Poquott residents complained that the retention pond creates unsafe and unsanitary conditions, according to Parrish’s letter. The unfenced structure is constructed of earthen walls and an earthen base, and residents are concerned about stabilization issues, where the sidewalls can collapse and cause a person or animal to fall or become trapped. Parrish said after a heavy rainfall the structure can fill with up to 4 feet of water.

It is the second letter in a year that Parrish, president and CEO of environmental consulting company Impact Environmental, has sent to Margaret Conklin, DOT’s acting transportation maintenance engineer.

“It’s not working because it’s always full of water, and it’s supposed to drain.”

— George Hoffman

After the first letter Parrish wrote in June 2018, the state sent DOT workers to the site July 10 to investigate the reported issues, but village residents still see it as a nuisance and have not seen any improvements.

Residents are worried that the standing water has attracted rats and mosquitoes; the structure has no controls when it overflows for capturing sediment and preventing the distribution of sediments; contaminants such as nitrates, chlorides and pathogens can possibly run into the road and village; and runoff might go directly to the water table and cause possible contamination.

“While we are aware that the department is exempt from certain environmental regulations with respect to road maintenance, we believe it is your requirement to operate within the intent of these regulations,” Parrish said in the December letter.

George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said placing a filter system at the location was an opportunity for the state to create a rain garden that usually has vegetation that thrives on the nitrogen in the water, with rocks and stones to improve drainage.

By comparison, he said the current structure looks like a big pit with an asphalt strip to drain water.

“It’s not working because it’s always full of water, and it’s supposed to drain,” he said, adding he’s heard stories of animals getting trapped in it.

Maria Hoffman, a volunteer with the task force, said the particular stretch of Route 25A on the south side is known for clay under the surface, which causes poor drainage.

Stephen Canzoneri, a DOT spokesman, said the agency is aware of the situation and continues to investigate options for a more permanent solution.

During the Jan. 10 Village of Poquott work session, the board of trustees decided to table a decision as to how to proceed about the matter until its next meeting Feb. 11 and allow the state additional time to respond to Parrish’s December letter.

A left-turn arrow will be installed at the intersection of Route 25A and County Road 21 in Rocky Point for safety reasons. Photo by Kyle Barr

The accident-prone intersection of Route 25A and County Road 21 in Rocky Point could be getting a new traffic light that local officials hope will curb injuries and fatalities.

“In response to community interest, the New York State Department of Transportation will update the traffic signal at Route 25A and County Road 21 with a protected left turn indicated by a green arrow phase for vehicles turning left from eastbound Route 25A onto northbound [Hallock Landing Road],” said Stephen Canzoneri, public information officer for the regional DOT office that covers Suffolk County. “This is being done following an extensive review of the intersection and will reflect the traffic pattern for westbound Route 25A.”

Canzoneri said that a new left-turn signal will be installed by the state DOT in September. A protected turning light allows drivers in the turning lane to strictly take a left while other drivers going straight are stopped at a red light. Westbound Route 25A already has a protected turning light.

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said the intersection has a long history of vehicular incidents over the years. The best way to avoid problems there, she said, was to avoid making left turns onto Route 25A or Hallock Landing Road.

“That’s a very busy intersection, and there’s a lot going on there,” Bonner said. “People need to drive defensively and plan their routes so they don’t have to make a left.”

Bonner has been in contact with state DOT officials and they have sent surveyors out since 2017 to analyze the dangers of the intersection, she said.

The intersection at the corner of Route 25A and Rocky Point Yaphank Road, as Route 21 is also known, is a notoriously dangerous intersection with new accidents reported every year, some of which have caused fatalities, such as the death of Rocky Point resident Carol Sardegna in September 2016. One recent crash occurred Aug. 15 at the intersection, according to the Rocky Point Watch Facebook page.

The state DOT said it would not install a left-turn arrow northbound and southbound on County Road 21 because it would reduce time for vehicles on both roads, according to a state DOT letter received by Bonner. The letter also said the state department plans to relocate the east and southbound STOP bar pavement markings and upgrade the County Road 21 crosswalks to be more visible.

Bonner said she believes the turn signal should help reduce accidents at the intersection.

“People by law will only be able to make a left when you can,” Bonner said. “It doesn’t mean people still won’t try to do it, but I feel confident more people obey turning signals than not.”

John Cerato stands next to an overgrown median on Route 25A in Miller Place. Photo by Alex Petroski

Growth is usually a positive thing, but growth in Miller Place has become a stick in the eye to a longtime resident and elected official alike.

John Cerato, a 20-year Miller Place resident who previously lived in Rocky Point, told TBR News Media this week he has progressively seen the condition of vegetation on many of the medians on Route 25A — a New York State highway — falling into a state of disrepair as it becomes overgrown and unkempt. He said he sees it predominantly as an aesthetic issue, but also has some safety concerns related to the increasingly out-of-control shrubbery. 

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) echoed much of Cerato’s observations about the medians in a June 18 letter to the editor in which she proposed removing the shrubs and weeds taking over the road dividers and replacing them with flower beds.

A median near where North Country Road and Route 25A merge in Rocky Point, which includes a sidewalk and crosswalk, is almost too overgrown to walk on.

“This will not only save money by reducing maintenance (which obviously is not being done as often as needed), but it will also provide a visually pleasing appearance as we travel along Route 25A in the 6th Legislative District,” she said. 

In the letter, Anker said she has facilitated a partnership between the New York State Department of Transportation and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office through the Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program to provide some maintenance on the medians recently, but even that hasn’t quite been enough.

“We recently heard back from the [NYSDOT] regional director, Joe Brown, that later this month they will begin to start replacing the 12 overgrown medians on Route 25A with a blue lyme grass similar to what has been successfully installed on Route 112,” said Anker’s Legislative Aide Robyn Fellrath-Maresca in an email July 19. “The grass is easier to maintain and minimizes weed growth. Legislator Anker appreciates the response and hopes that the change will improve the visual landscape of the community.”

Fellrath-Maresca added that Anker’s office had received numerous complaints about the medians in recent months from constituents.

Stephen Canzoneri, public information officer for the regional DOT office that covers Suffolk County, shared an update on the matter via email July 25.

“NYSDOT is improving the medians along Route 25A,” he said. “The current landscaping will be removed in the coming weeks and replaced with blue lyme grass, the same grass which is already in place along the renovated portions of Route 112. DOT will continue to work with residents and local elected officials to beautify our roadways.”

Cerato pointed to a particularly troublesome area on Route 25A in Rocky Point, where it merges with North Country Road on its north side. A walkway between the two roads is overgrown to the point that those looking to cross over Route 25A from north to south would have to step onto North Country Road or fight through the shoulder-high vegetation. Cerato said he has seen cases when parking at North Shore Little League baseball fields south of Route 25A is full, so people who park across North Country Road and walk to the fields are forced into unsafe situations.

“To have to sort of put up with this is ridiculous I think,” he said.

The Miller Place resident said he is also concerned that if an accident occurs on one side of the road and causes the cars to jump the median into oncoming traffic, those motorists would have no time to react.

“There should be some visibility,” he said. “You’re not going to have any idea they’re coming.”

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A horrific crash on the Southern State Parkway injured many Huntington High School students when a coach bus slammed into an overpass April 9. The accident could have been easily avoided, elected officials said, and we couldn’t agree more.

While we cannot control human error, this should be a wake-up call to re-examine our use of technological safety devices.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he called for improved transportation safety measures at the very same place, Exit 18 at the Eagle Avenue bridge, where an accident occurred in 2012. As a result, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration advised truck drivers and commercial vehicles that a new GPS system was available to warn of parkways and roadways along their route with low clearances.

While installing this commercial GPS system into commercial vehicles was highly recommended, Schumer admitted it was not mandated by federal law. Elected officials presumed transportation companies would voluntarily shell out money to improve safety. Decisions regarding passenger safety should not be left in the hands of private corporations. Federal, state and county politicians need to reconsider legislation that would require this vital, potentially life-saving equipment on school buses, coach buses, RVs and other tall passenger vehicles.

This accident also warrants taking a closer look at those new technologies in the process of being installed on Long Island’s parkways. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Dec. 5 of last year that $4.3 million in funds would be spent to install overheight vehicle detectors at 13 locations in Nassau and Suffolk counties. His goal was to use state-of-the-art technology to prevent bridge strikes that can be potentially fatal and snarl traffic for hours.

These detectors are installed at the top of on-ramps and relay an invisible beam set at the specific height needed to clear the parkway’s bridges. If a vehicle breaks the beam, the device triggers a colored LED message sign to flash a warning to the driver, alerting the truck or bus will not clear the bridge.

Joe Morrissey, spokesman for the New York State Department of Transportation, confirmed these detectors have been installed at the Eagle Avenue overpass, but said they are not yet active due to calibration and testing. Morrissey admitted even if the detectors had been functioning, they would not have prevented the accident. They are not set up to scan for overheight vehicles entering from the Belt Parkway, as the coach bus did.

Elected politicians and transportation officials made the assumption that because buses and commercial vehicles are not allowed on the Belt Parkway, none would enter the Southern State Parkway from that ramp.

Cuomo’s plan to install these vehicle detectors needs to be looked over again to better determine where sensors need to be placed. Additional measures, like notification to highway police when the sensor is set off, should also be considered.

These oversights are putting holes in the safety net.

The intersection of Barnum Avenue and West Broadway in Port Jeff Village now features left and right green arrows. Photo by Alex Petroski

Changes have finally been made to a Port Jefferson Village intersection closely situated near the Town of Brookhaven boat launch ramp within the Port Jefferson Marina.

The New York State Department of Transportation installed new traffic signals at the intersection of Barnum Avenue and West Broadway Dec. 12 in the hopes of further alerting northbound drivers on Barnum not to proceed through the intersection, as just yards away on the other side lies the boat ramp directly into Port Jefferson Harbor. The new signal features green left and right arrows, replacing the standard green signals that used to hang above the crossing.

The change was made after a letter was sent to the department by Village Mayor Margot Garant earlier this year calling for safety improvements in the aftermath of an April 6 incident in which a man in his early 60s drove into the harbor via the same boat launch. DOT Regional Director Joseph Brown responded to Garant in a letter dated Sept. 15, saying the department had conducted an investigation which included an accident analysis, turning movement counts, pedestrian counts and field observations of the area. The letter also said the DOT would heed Garant’s request and change the traffic light.

On Oct. 30, 69-year-old Lake Grove resident William Whalen was pronounced dead at the hospital after he was pulled from a submerged vehicle in Port Jefferson Harbor. His vehicle entered the water via the troublesome intersection.

“I think it’s one of many steps we’re going to continue to take,” Garant said of the new traffic signals during a Dec. 18 board meeting. “For those who are paying attention the green arrows help, but I think clearly for those people who are having either a medical problem or maybe an ulterior motive, they might just continue to drive through. I don’t really know.”

Garant said the village’s only recourse at the intersection is to add more signage, which she said the village would pursue, as West Broadway is a New York State road, and Brookhaven owns the boat ramp and marina. A spokesperson from the town declined to comment and instead directed inquiries to the office of Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station)  regarding additional plans to prevent drivers from entering the harbor. Cartright’s office declined a request for comment.

Michael Schwarting and Frances Campani, of Campani and Schwarting Architects in Port Jefferson, in a joint letter to the editor and in a presentation to the village said they thought the new signals might not be enough. The architects suggested the exit from the ramp could be narrowed so that it does not perfectly align with the intersection.

“Narrowing the exit from the ramp so that it does not align with the Barnum lane running north would make it almost impossible to turn in,” the letter said. “It is pedestrian friendly, would not be very expensive and would add to the visual quality of the intersection.”

Village Deputy Mayor and Trustee Larry LaPointe said during the meeting he liked the architects’ idea.

“I thought that was a very good design,” he said. “I’d like to see the town consider that.”

In December 2005 60-year-old Setauket resident Richard Levin drove into the water on the same ramp and onlookers had to pull his unconscious body from the fully submerged car. Levin died days later as a result of the incident. The wife and executrix of the estate of Richard Levin named the town and village as co-defendants in a lawsuit in 2007. A New York State Supreme Court judge ultimately dismissed the case in 2011, finding the municipalities were not at fault.

A motorist driving an SUV died after being pulled from his vehicle in Port Jefferson Harbor Oct. 30. Photo by Dennis Whittam

A man was pronounced dead at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson after he was pulled from a submerged vehicle in Port Jefferson Harbor just after 7 p.m. Oct. 30, according to Suffolk County Police Department Assistant Commissioner Justin Meyers. Police have identified the man as William Whalen, 69, of Lake Grove.

“A 911 call came in at 7:10 p.m. after witnesses observed a car drive into the water at the Port Jefferson Marina boat launch located off of West Broadway Avenue and Barnum Avenue in Port Jefferson Village,” Meyers statement said. “Sixth Precinct Officers Brian Christopher and Michael Cappelli responded and jumped into the water and extricated a male victim that was trapped in his vehicle which was completely submerged. Personnel from the Port Jefferson Village Fire Department and Setauket Fire Department also responded and also went into the water to help extricate the victim.”

A motorist driving an SUV died after being pulled from his vehicle in Port Jefferson Harbor Oct. 30. Photo by Dennis Whittam

The officers were being treated for hypothermia in the aftermath of the incident.

Members of the Port Jefferson Fire Department — Lieutenant Geoffrey Markson, Ex-Captain David Okst and First Assistant Brennan Holmes — were on the eastern end of the marina parking lot working on the department’s fire boat when they were alerted of the incident on their paging devices, according to a spokesperson from the PJFD chief’s office. The three jumped into the water, eventually breaking the window with a hammer and removing the seatbelt to pull the victim from the car. Two PJFD Heavy Rescue Squad members in diving gear also arrived on the scene to assist in the rescue effort.

“We had a brief conversation that went, ‘are we doing this? Yeah we’re doing it,'” Holmes said during a phone interview.

He said the three firefighters were focused only on action and not on what might happen to them if they jumped in the water.

“We could have saved a life,” Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant said via email Monday night.

Garant announced during a board meeting June 5 the village had sent a letter to the New York State Department of Transportation and State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) asking for the traffic signal at the intersection of Barnum Avenue and West Broadway to be changed from having a standard green light to a green left arrow and right arrow. The call was in response to an April 6 incident in which a man in his early 60s drove into the harbor via the same boat launch. Four good Samaritans rescued that driver, and were later honored by the Port Jeff Village board in July. Garant said the DOT told her in a letter she received about five weeks ago they intended to comply with her request to change the light.

“I am thankful that the DOT was willing to entertain and adopt our suggestion, and when the light is changed, it may save a life,” Garant said Tuesday.

In December 2005 60-year-old Setauket resident Richard Levin drove into the water on the same ramp and onlookers had to pull his unconscious body from the fully submerged car. Levin died days later as a result of the incident.

According to documents obtained from Brookhaven in May, both Brookhaven Town and Port Jeff Village were sued by the wife and executrix of the estate of Richard Levin in 2007.

“As a result of the negligence of the defendants in failing to properly maintain the intersection of Route 25A and Barnum Ave., in failing to properly safeguard against motorists driving onto said Port Jefferson ramp into the water, in failing to properly illuminate said area, in failing to provide fencing and warning lights — as a result of the aforementioned Richard Levin died,” the lawsuit read in part. “[The] town failed to submit any evidence that it maintained its property in a reasonably safe condition by providing adequate fencing, lighting or warning of the dangerous condition on its property.”

“We had a brief conversation that went, ‘are we doing this? Yeah we’re doing it.'”

— Brennan Holmes

Judge Joseph Farneti of the New York State Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit in January 2011 because the “acts or omissions of defendants were not the proximate cause of the alleged accident.”

The April incident stirred up memories more than a decade old for one former village resident.

“People are dying here and it’s a simple fix,” Christopher Kelsch, one of the people who witnessed Levin’s death 12 years ago and tried to help, said shortly after seeing news of the April incident. “Somebody needs to shine a serious spotlight because Dr. Levin died at that location.”

Following the April incident, a Brookhaven Town spokesperson said in a statement there are clear signs and traffic measures in place to warn residents of the ramp’s location.

“The Port Jefferson boat ramp has existed at its current location for generations,” the spokesperson said. “A number of measures are in place including a multitude of ‘Do Not Enter’ signs, road arrows and other traffic control measures to clearly indicate that this is not an entrance.”

A Brookhaven Town spokesperson directed questions to the police department Monday night. Garant called on the town to take action in April, as the marina is town-owned property.

A spokesperson for Lavalle said the state senator was meeting with representatives from the DOT Nov. 1 to discuss the incident and troublesome intersection.

This post was updated Oct. 31 to include information from the PJFD Chief’s office and a quote from Brennan Holmes, and Nov. 1 to include a response from Ken Lavalle’s spokesperson.

Good Samaritans and SCPD Marine Bureau divers help a driver submerged in Port Jefferson Harbor April 6. Photo by Andrew Tetreault/Fully Involved Media Group

Following an April incident in which a man drove into Port Jefferson Harbor via the Town of Brookhaven boat ramp located at the north end of Barnum Avenue, Port Jefferson Village is calling for action.

Village Mayor Margot Garant announced during a board meeting June 5 the village has sent a letter to the New York State Department of Transportation and State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) asking for the traffic signal at the intersection of Barnum Avenue and West Broadway to be changed from having a standard green light to a green left arrow and right arrow. The April 6 incident saw a man in his early 60s drive into Port Jefferson Harbor via the ramp at about 5:30 p.m., according to the Suffolk County Police Department. The car was found submerged underwater and a few good Samaritans helped remove the man from the car. Members from the Suffolk County Marine Bureau dive team went in the water to search for possible additional victims. The driver was treated for serious injuries at Stony Brook Hospital and his current condition is still not known, according to Garant.

“People sometimes are losing their way on a misty morning or a foggy morning or a rainy morning or on a sunny morning,” Garant said during the meeting.

In the aftermath of the incident in April Garant called on the Town of Brookhaven to step up and do something to resolve the recurring issue, as the ramp is town property.

“It’s only a matter of time before this happens again,” she said.

A spokesperson for the town that asked not to be named responded to Garant’s calls for action at the time.

“The Port Jefferson boat ramp has existed at its current location for generations,” the spokesperson said. “A number of measures are in place including a multitude of ‘Do Not Enter’ signs, road arrows and other traffic control measures to clearly indicate that this is not an entrance.”

This is not the first time the positioning of the town ramp beyond the village intersection has been the source of controversy.

According to documents obtained from Brookhaven in May, both the town and village were sued by the wife and executrix of the estate of Richard Levin in 2007. Levin died Dec. 5, 2005, after driving into the water via the ramp at about 6 p.m. Alice Cialella, an eyewitness of the incident who was directly behind Levin in traffic, said Levin had his left blinker on, hesitated momentarily, then accelerated through the intersection and plunged into the harbor via the ramp.

“As a result of the negligence of the defendants in failing to properly maintain the intersection of Route 25A and Barnum Ave., in failing to properly safeguard against motorists driving onto said Port Jefferson ramp into the water, in failing to properly illuminate said area, in failing to provide fencing and warning lights — as a result of the aforementioned Richard Levin died,” the lawsuit read in part. “[The] town failed to submit any evidence that it maintained its property in a reasonably safe condition by providing adequate fencing, lighting or warning of the dangerous condition on its property.”

Judge Joseph Farneti of the New York State Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit in January 2011 because the “acts or omissions of defendants were not the proximate cause of the alleged accident.”

Christopher Kelsch, a former village resident who was given a Carnegie Medal by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission for trying to save Levin, said in an April phone interview he’d like to see action to prevent similar future accidents.

“People are dying here and it’s a simple fix,” he said. Kelsch also testified on behalf of Levin’s case in the 2011 lawsuit.

The 10-mile route that the Port Jefferson Station to Wading River Rails to Trails project will take. Image from Legislator Anker's office

As hundreds packed the auditoriums of Shoreham-Wading River and Miller Place high schools the same sentiment reverberated off the walls — there’s not only a want, but a need for a safe place for children to ride their bikes.

After the deaths of two local children, the desire for the Rails to Trails project to push forward was prevalent among the Port Jefferson Station, Mount Sinai, Miller Place, Sound Beach, Rocky Point, Shoreham and Wading River residents who live along the proposed 10-mile trail.

“I don’t know if this trail is going to move forward 100 percent, but so far it’s picking up momentum,” Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said to the March 29 group in Shoreham. “We need the ability to ride bikes in a safe place, the ability to take a walk or push a baby carriage in a safe place.”

Residents listen to questions and answers during the meeting at Shorheam-Wading River High School. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The legislator, who is propelling the project, brought members the Suffolk County Department of Works and engineering company NV5 to her first general meeting to gather public input and answer questions.

“I need to hear what you want, because I’m here to make it happen,” Anker said.

Steve Normandy, project manager with NV5, discussed the flat surface and location being conducive to a trail.

“There’s over 1,600 rail trails nationwide over 20,000 miles,” he said. “They’re good for biking, hiking, walking, safe travel to school, and studies have shown businesses thrive and home values increase, it improves air quality and enhances sense of community.”

On March 28, the county Legislature unanimously approved a negative New York State Environmental Quality Review Act determination for the proposed 10-foot-wide trail, which would be opened from dawn to dusk. The adoption of negative SEQRA determination means that there is no anticipated environmental impact for the project.

The path will have paver markings and mile-markers for county miles, as well as emergency services to locate those in need. It will also meet Americans with Disabilities Act slope requirements. The design report was submitted to the state Department of Transportation in February. If design approval is received this summer, final design plans will be prepared in the next year in the hopes of received final design plan approval from the NYSDOT in winter 2018.

Currently, the plan is that construction will begin in spring 2019, for a fall 2020 finish.

“We’ve met with quite a few partners and discussed a bunch of different aspects of maintenance, but the biggest issue we anticipate is really going to be cutting the grass,” said county Department of Public Works chief engineer, Bill Hillman. “We’ll be asking the community for help, to pitch in with a lot of the different maintenance aspects.”

The hope is that a not-for-profit like the Friends of Greenway, which maintains the Setauket to Port Jefferson Greenway Trail, will form to beautify and preserve the attraction.

Kaitlin Brown, who moved to Wading River five years ago, said she entered the area because she loved the trees.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker responds to questions from the audience. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I want to pledge my support because I think it’s a wonderful component that our community doesn’t have, and it needs,” she said, adding she is willing to help mow and maintain the piece of property, which is owned by LIPA. “I found my house on the map, and it looks like one day when I have kids, they’ll be able to get from our house through back roads to the trail, and then take the trail to the high school.”

Judy Black, who has lived in the area for 47 years, said she’s been hoping the trail would become a reality from day one, back in 2001 before plans derailed, and again in 2011 when Anker tried to revive the idea.

“I so hope we can come together and make this happen,” she said. “With a son that rode his bicycle all over the place I was always worried about him.”

She explained how she once saw a cyclist fall on North Country Road trying to maneuver around a construction sign. She was in need of medical attention, and when examiners arrived, they asked her why she was riding along a major road.

“But where else do you ride your bike?” Black said. “We need a safe place to ride, to walk with friends, to expand our community connection, and I’m so for it.”

The ideas weren’t without opposition.

There were some like 10-year Rocky Point resident Mary Anne Gladysz, who said she’s felt like she’s been kept in the dark.

“I’m not in favor of this at all,” she said, although adding she would probably be in favor of Rails to Trials if she didn’t live near it.“This is in my backyard 24/7; you come for an hour-and-a-half walk and then you leave. I’m here all the time.”

Some of her concerns included if the trail will take property from homeowners, if cesspools will be affected and what issues her dogs barking toward the trail could bring.

Hillman and Anker reassured her that she will not be losing property, and cesspools will not be affected. As for dogs barking and noise ordinances, Hillman said it’s an issue Gladysz would have to take up with Brookhaven Town.

The trial currently doesn’t have any guardrails, fences, beautification elements, toilets or lights budgeted into the $8 million plan.

Those who would like to see where the trail will be located in relation to their homes could view individual hamlet maps during the meeting. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Anker said she is working on a plan to protect privacy along the path, and said Eagle and Girl Scouts typically do beautification projects, which could include adding benches and other useful things along the trail.

Others still worried about safety and other crime-related issues, were soothed by Sgt. Walter Langdon of the Suffolk County Police Department, and 7th Precinct COPE officer Mike Casper, who said there has been “little to no crime” at Setauket-Port Jefferson Greenway Trail, but added that there will still be a police presence along the path.

By the end of the first meeting, those like Rocky Point resident Cory Fitzgerald were heard loudest, and supported by other community members for their opinion of the trail.

Fitzgerald has daughters aged 8 and 6, and both love riding their bikes.

“We take trips to Cape Cod every summer and the rail trail up in Cape Cod is phenomenal,” he said. “My girls ride their bikes more in that one week than during the entire year in Rocky Point. The roads in Rocky Point are very narrow and hilly, so I want to give my girls that opportunity to ride whenever they want. We’ve been waiting for so long — I’ve been told this was coming and I’ve been so excited and the girls really want this to happen. It’s going to be great for our community.”

Residents in favor of the trail, which some like Wading River resident Bruce Kagan are naming the “Tesla Trail,” because it will lead to the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham, were unanimous on the biggest topic of discussion: kids.

“This is the most deadly county for injuries and deaths for pedestrians and cyclists,” Kagan said. “There’s no place for our kids. Let us do this for our children and our children’s children.”

Community members hold up signs on the corner of Route 25A and Miller Place Roadto bring awareness to the dangerous intersection following the death of a local 14-year-old boy. Photo by Kevin Redding

In response to a 14-year-old’s death at a busy intersection, the Miller Place community says enough is enough, and their voices were heard.

Residents from across the North Shore gathered March 26 to push for drastic safety changes at a dangerous road crossing at the intersection of Miller Place Road and Route 25A, where Nico Signore was struck by an SUV while riding his bike with friends last month.

Community members, including Signore’s family and friends, said the intersection should have a red left-turn signal to stop cars from entering the crosswalk when pedestrians are given the signal that it’s safe to walk to the other side. The group also agreed every corner of the intersection should be a no turn on red.

Community members hold up signs on the corner of Route 25A and Miller Place Road to bring awareness to the dangerous intersection following the death of a local 14-year-old boy. Photo by Kevin Redding

On Feb. 23, Signore pushed the crosswalk button, waited for the go-ahead signal to bike across the intersection, and was struck because the northbound driver had a green left turn arrow.

According to Miller Place resident Tammy McGuire, rally organizer and close friend to the Signores, the disastrous layout of the intersection gave the driver an invitation to run him over.

“There’s no reason Nico should be dead,” McGuire said, holding back tears. “We want someone to do something about it before more [people] die. Any parent or community member should want this changed.”

McGuire asked for a moment of silence among the crowd in memory of the beloved Miller Place lacrosse player, and 16-year-old John Luke, who died at the same intersection in May 2015, before leading the residents in a call and response chant.

“What do we want? Change,” the group shouted. “When do we want it? Now.”

Those in the crowd held up signs that read “make Miller Place safe again” and “we demand a full red before anyone else is dead” as passing cars honked in support.

“This corner has been a disaster — this whole section needs to be revamped and they need to do it immediately,” said Angela Campo, Signore’s former religion teacher. “The more time they take for studies, the more lives are lost. The Signore family has been destroyed and this community can’t take it anymore.”

A bear placed in memory if Nico Signore, who was hit by a car, holds a sign that says “make Miller Place safe again,” following the 14-year-old getting hit by a car at an intersection. Photo by Kevin Redding

She held up a sign containing a photo of her former student, adding that he was a beautiful and vibrant boy.

“He never got to live his life and the world is a much more awful place without him,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

Kevin Cantwell, of Sound Beach, said Signore’s death should be the catalyst to get something done.

“Somebody has to figure this out because it’s a safety issue and there’s been proven deaths here,” Cantwell said. “Living in the community for 15 years — seeing this happen, seeing all the accidents, talking to the Miller Place fire department — this [intersection] is a nightmare.”

Back in October, months before Signore’s death, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) reached out to the department based on concern from the Miller Place School District about hazardous traffic conditions at the same intersection, where a frequent number of car accidents occurred.

Signore’s death at the intersection prompted a recent request from state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) to the New York State Department of Transportation to conduct an immediate pedestrian-bicycle safety study along the Route 25A corridor.

LaValle received word from the DOT that it will be making changed to the Miller Place intersection. The agreement included a red turn arrow on Miller Place Road.

“This will prevent cars from turning into the intersection while pedestrians are in the crosswalk,” LaValle said. “Additionally, the DOT will be installing new signs to warn drivers about pedestrians in the crosswalk.”

The changes, according to LaValle, will be implemented in two to four weeks.

“The DOT is in the process of developing long-term recommendations as well that, when implemented, will greatly improve the safety of this intersection,” LaValle said. “It is my deepest hope that these changes will prevent any future loss of life and lower the accident rate in this area.”

Community members hold up signs on the corner of Route 25A and Miller Place Road to bring awareness to the dangerous intersection following the death of a local 14-year-old boy. Photo by Kevin Redding

Stony Brook resident Danielle Algiere said even though she doesn’t know the Signore family, she came out for the simple fact that she’s a mother.

“It doesn’t matter that it happened in Miller Place, any local mother should be out here right now fighting for change,” she said. “He did everything he should’ve, and a flawed system is what got that child killed.”

The Signore family rejected the idea that the red light program had anything to do with Nico’s death, saying just the green arrow did.

“That’s not what this is about,” said Vincent Signore Jr., Nico’s older brother. “The intersection itself needs to be looked into and it’s nice to see a lot of people supporting this and caring about my brother. No family should ever have to go through this.”

All in attendance were encouraged to sign a petition, which help enacted the change, and another was passed around for the Rails to Trails project, to provide a safe, out-of-the-way path for residents to bike on. Also included in that petition was a request to dedicate a portion of the path running through Miller Place to Nico, an avid bicyclist.

“I met with the parents and they want to see a better situation in their community,” Anker said. “I hope if we move forward with Rails to Trails we’ll provide that safe place for our children to enjoy riding their bikes. The Signore family is close to my heart right now.”

This version is updated to include state Sen. Ken LaValle’s response from and about changes made to the intersection by the New York State Department of Transportation.