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Traffic Study

Laurel Hill Road at Elwood Road in Northport. Photo from Google Maps

A traffic study of Laurel Hill Road conducted following a serious September accident found that drivers’ “poor behavior” makes roadway conditions significantly worse outside Northport High School, according to Town of Huntington officials.

The town’s Department of Transportation and Traffic Study conducted a study following the Sept. 4 accident involving 14-year-old Miles Lerner. Miles was an incoming freshman walking to cross-country practice at Northport High School when he was struck by a 2005 Honda sedan traveling eastbound on Laurel Hill Road at 8:06 a.m., according to Suffolk County police. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University
Hospital with a traumatic brain injury.

Following the incident, Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R), a citizen’s advocate and town employees met with members of the Northport-East Northport school district and Suffolk County Police Department’s 2nd Precinct Sept. 14 to discuss the accident and pedestrian traffic in the area. As a result, the town decided to undertake a traffic study of Laurel Hill Road, which is in the town’s jurisdiction, the result of which was shared with school officials and police officers at a Nov. 27 meeting.

The next steps are to meet with the school district’s architect, Suffolk County and residents to discuss the town’s traffic study and plans for improvements along Laurel Hill Road and on the school property.”

— Scott Spittal

“Our Traffic Safety team has been carefully analyzing the data they collected from vehicular as well as pedestrian bicycle traffic to formulate a recommendation that will make our roads safer for student walkers, reduce driver frustration and achieve an overall traffic calming effect, especially during those critical pick-up and drop-off times,” Lupinacci said.

From Sept. 19 to 27, town employees placed traffic counting devices along Laurel Hill Road and the driveways that provide access to and from the high school to collect data on traffic volumes and speed. The data showed an average of 420 vehicles traveled eastbound and roughly 500 vehicles westbound on Laurel Hill Road during the peak morning hour of 7 to 8 a.m. weekdays, compared to an average of 40 to 50 cars on weekends. The 85 percentile of vehicles were clocked traveling at approximately 45 mph eastbound and 39 mph westbound, nearly twice the school speed zone restriction set at 20 mph. The average number of vehicles counted traveling on Laurel Hill Road during the peak 2 to 3 p.m. hour was between roughly 220 to 240 cars in each direction.

“Conditions are made worse due to poor driver behavior that was observed, including drivers speeding, dropping off students in the westbound Laurel Hill Road shoulder area and travel lane, and using the westbound Laurel Hill Road shoulder to bypass the queue of vehicles waiting to enter the school’s westernmost driveway along Laurel Hill Road,” read the town’s report.

In addition, Huntington transportation and traffic employees noted that buses and vehicles made “precarious” left turns out of the school’s easternmost driveway on Laurel Hill Road, close to the intersection with Elwood Road.

Based on these findings, the town had produced a concept plan that suggests adding an exclusive westbound left turn lane on Laurel Hill Road to reduce driver frustration for westbound motorists looking to travel through the area, which would be achieved by reducing the width of the existing shoulder areas on both sides of the roadway. This would have the added benefit of eliminating the ability of drivers to use the shoulder to bypass the travel line and drop off students in the westbound shoulder of Laurel Hill Road, according to the town’s report.

“The next steps are to meet with the school district’s architect, Suffolk County and residents to discuss the town’s traffic study and plans for improvements along Laurel Hill Road and on the school property,” said Scott Spittal, Huntington’s director of transportation and traffic safety.

One downside to the Town of Huntington’s proposed concept plan is it would eliminate on-street parking in the eastbound shoulder of Laurel Hill Road, or approximately 25 spaces.

“The superintendent is appreciative of the town’s efforts in conducting the traffic safety study, however, it is too early to render any reaction since the preliminary recommendations were just released Nov. 27,” Mike Ganci, spokesman for Northport school district said in a statement.

The scene of the Friday evening crash on Woodbury Road. Photo by Marilyn McDermott

By Rohma Abbas & Elana Glowatz

An elderly woman died in Cold Spring Harbor Friday evening when she lost control of her car on Woodbury Road and crashed into the woods.

The Suffolk County Police Department said 80-year-old Eugenia Kouwenhoven, a Huntington resident, was driving a 2014 Buick Regal west on the road at the time of the crash, close to 6:30 p.m. She was pronounced dead at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Woodbury Road has been the topic of much debate at Huntington Town Board meetings, as residents have cited numerous car crashes along the road. The town commissioned a traffic study of the thoroughfare, but the stretch of roadway along which Kouwenhoven crashed and lost her life is not in the traffic calming study area, according to A.J. Carter, a spokesman for the town.

“The unfortunate accident occurred on a portion of Woodbury Road that is past Cold Spring Harbor train station, which is not part of the study area,” Carter said.

Marilyn McDermott, a resident of Woodbury Road, echoed similar sentiments. She questioned whether the accident had much to do with the safety road. She was on the scene shortly after the accident and said she didn’t see any skid marks.

“I’m not sure if it was inherent of the actual dangers of the road or singular to her,” McDermott said in a Monday phone interview.

Kouwenhoven was a widow, and a mother to three children, a grandmother to 10, and a great grandmother to four, according to her obituary on A.L Jacobsen Funeral Home’s website.

Attempts to reach Kouwenhoven’s family this week were unsuccessful.

Friends of Kouwenhoven, who also went by “Jean” or “Gene,” shared some of their memories and condolences on an online tribute page.

One person spoke of Kouwenhoven’s gourmet cooking skills and her “kind and thoughtful” nature. She said Kouwenhoven would often wash and style the hair of neighborhood girls before a birthday party.

“Can you imagine someone taking the time to [style] 2 or 3 young girls’ hair?” Janet Stanton Schaaf wrote. “It took hours! I felt so pampered and so glamorous, and so cared for. What a wonderful feeling”

Schaaf continued, “Jean had such a positive impact on my life and I hope she now sees how much she added to our little Huntington neighborhood of kids. Thanks for everything, Jean.”

Cathy and Walter Kennedy also left a message honoring Kouwenhoven.

“She was so full of life and knew how to enjoy it,” they wrote. “She had a special way of wrapping herself around your heart. We feel blessed to have known her and to have shared many a time with her.”

While he’s not handling the case and doesn’t know the exact details, 2nd Precinct Dt. Sgt. James Scimoni said it’s “definitely possible” the woman could have undergone a medical emergency before crashing. But there’s no confirmation of that, he said.

On the subject of Woodbury Road traffic safety improvements, town officials have already embarked on fixes to attempt to make the road safer.

On Tuesday, the town released a statement noting that it had implemented the first phase of its traffic study consultants’ recommendations. Town highway department workers trimmed trees along the shoulder of the road, running 2.5 miles from Main Street in Huntington village to Pulaski Road in Cold Spring Harbor. The workers also replaced road signs to increase visibility — the 165 new signs are larger than the ones they replaced, including larger chevron signs to further highlight the horizontal curves in the roadway.

The town installed new turn and reverse turn signs to replace curve and reverse curve signs, bringing the signage up to federal standards. Also, the town upgraded the reflectivity of traffic signs.

“That stuff is the first phase,” Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) said in a phone interview. “Now we’re waiting for the analysis of the road for the second phase to implement the suggestions for narrowing the road, the markings and the strips in the middle.”

This story was last updated on Tuesday, Sept. 1, at 5 p.m.

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