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Traffic

Petrone: RFP for parking garage coming soon

The Huntington Town Board authorized a $1.6 million purchase of property to create 66 additional parking spaces in Huntington village. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington village’s parking pickle may soon become a little less of one.

On Tuesday, the town board green-lighted a $1.6 million purchase of property on West Carver Street to create about 66 new parking spaces in the village.

The board unanimously authorized Supervisor Frank Petrone or his representative to execute a contract to purchase a portion of the property at 24 West Carver St. from owner Anna Louise Realty II, LLC— right across the road from the New Street municipal parking lot. The money will be bonded for over a 10-year period, Petrone told reporters after the meeting.

It won’t be the only parking update in Huntington village this season. Petrone said the town is working with the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce and the Huntington Station Business Improvement District to draft a request for proposals to build a parking garage in town — an idea town officials and residents have mulled for years.

“It’s a beginning,” Petrone said. “We made a commitment that parking is a continuum. We changed the meters. We have a different approach. We restriped, we added more spots, we redid lots. And now this is adding like 66 more additional spots, which is pretty substantial given the fact of the needs in the town.”

Town officials are hoping to get the RFP out by the end of summer, Petrone said. Asked where the structure would be sited, the supervisor said there have been discussions about locating it at the New Street lot, right across from the 66 additional spaces.

If a parking structure is to be built, it is likely current spots would be closed down in the construction process. Part of the idea of purchasing the 66 spaces would be to help mitigate parking during the building of a structure, he said.

Town officials had explored creating a parking facility on Elm Street for years. Those ideas aren’t dead, Petrone said, but the feeling is the town might be able to get more spots out of the New Street location. “We begin with New Street,” he said. “I’m not saying Elm will not be looked at.”

Petrone said the town’s been thinking up creative ways to finance a parking structure. Asked how the town would pay for such a facility, Petrone said it could be a private project, with the town providing the developer with a lease to the land, or it could be a public-private partnership. If a private entity were to come in, it would have to be worthwhile to them financially. To that end, he said “we’ve heard all sorts of ideas,” like building apartments or shops into the structure — properties that could be rented out. He said officials have also explored whether the cost of parking in the structure would suffice in terms of paying the debt service on the bond off.

The supervisor said he’s also weighed creating a parking district for the whole village area, with businesses paying into it, “because it’s the cost of doing business, it basically will provide better parking in the village.”

The chamber of commerce has “played an integral part in the push for increased parking options” in the town over the last three years, according to David Walsdorf, a chamber board member and member of the Huntington Village Parking Consortium.

“We view the parking challenge as a positive reflection of the growth and vitality of our flourishing businesses and we continue to support further improvement in our infrastructure to meet the needs and sustainability of our community,” he said in a statement.

Chamber chairman Bob Scheiner praised the news.

“The Huntington Chamber of Commerce is proud to be a part of this parking consortium and we fully support the supervisor and town board in this acquisition, which will go a long way to help the parking situation in downtown,” he said in a statement “The chamber looks forward to the release of the RFP and thanks the board for their efforts.”

Martin Doherty presents traffic study findings to residents at a meeting about the heavily traveled Woodbury Road. Photo by Alex Petroski

Findings on a traffic study for the heavily traveled Woodbury Road fell short of some residents expectations Monday night, when engineers recommended against adding traffic signals or stop signs on the thoroughfare that connects Huntington and Cold Spring Harbor.

GEB HiRise, the Uniondale engineering firm that spent 10 months on the project, announced the results of their traffic study to about 60 residents at Huntington Town Hall, at a meeting sponsored by Councilwoman Susan Berland (D).

Martin Doherty, GEB HiRise senior traffic engineer, said the firm conducted the study over 10 days, laying rubber tubes across the road that tracked both the volume and speed of traffic.

Despite resident reports of dangerous traffic activity on the road, GEB HiRise recommended only minor changes.

Doherty said during his presentation that the maximum speed clocked on the road over the 10-day study was 76 mph, by a car passing by at night. For the bulk of drivers traveling on Woodbury Road during the study, the average speed was 44 mph.

The speed limit on the road is 30 mph.

Doherty said larger and more reflective signs; thicker lane markings; rumble strips in the double yellow lines in the center of the road; reduced speed limits in some areas from 30 to 25 mph; and narrower lanes in some areas were the most drastic changes GEB HiRise recommended. The firm also suggested adding permanent overhead radar detectors in some spots — the kind that tell drivers how fast they are going, in the hopes of making them aware of excessive speed.

The study results did not suggest adding stop signs or traffic signals to the road.

The study deemed stop signs to be an ineffective solution because they would increase the number of rear-end collisions and create heavy delays, according to Doherty.

“I’m almost at a loss because it’s a lot to take in,” Woodbury Road resident Marilyn McDermott said after the meeting Monday. “I had my own expectations coming in of what I thought would be helpful.”

McDermott started a petition last summer to have the traffic study done. Her driveway leads directly onto the thoroughfare. McDermott said she arranged for her child’s school bus driver to come up her driveway in the morning because the road is too dangerous for anyone to stand on while waiting for a bus.

“You hear the study say that it doesn’t call for [stop signs],” McDermott said. “It makes us take a deep breath and say, ‘OK if it’s not [warranted], then are we turning this into a highway?’ … None of us want to have that kind of a road.”

There were moments during the meeting when the crowd became audibly frustrated with some of Doherty’s recommendations.

“How many people have to die before we get some damn stop signs?” one resident called out before exiting the meeting. He said he feared his agitation would trigger an existing heart problem.

Residents said they believed many of the worst offenders driving on Woodbury Road are people who are trying to make it to the Cold Spring Harbor train station in time for a train.

Berland reiterated that the study simply made recommendations about improving conditions on the road. She collected note cards from residents who wanted to share their opinions, and plans to consider them before action is taken, she said.

“We’re going to collate all of that, put all of that together and then I’m going to sit with the supervisor and our director of traffic, go through everything and see where we go,” Berland said.

Residents voiced concerns with numerous aspects of the study. Some were unhappy that it was conducted over a span of only 10 days, while others said that some of the data collected would be skewed because drivers were aware of the fact that their speed was being tracked. Also, residents who live on side streets of Woodbury Road were frustrated that their difficulties in making turns onto the curved main road were not taken into account in the study.

Resident suggestions made during the meeting included asking the police department for an increased presence and adding speed cameras.

Mayer Horn, a Dix Hills resident and transportation engineering consultant, offered a different view.

“Let me stress one word,” Horn said. “It’s not enforcement. It’s not stop signs. It’s not signals. People who asked you for those things mean well, but they’re misguided. The key word is ‘compliance.’ That’s what we really want here.”

Meeting to take place at town hall

Woodbury Road residents have called the thoroughfare unsafe in recent years. File photo by Barbara Donlon

The results of a Woodbury Road traffic study will be revealed at a meeting on Monday, June 15, at Huntington Town Hall, according to Huntington Councilwoman Susan Berland (D).

The town-commissioned study was a response to a petition organized by Marilyn McDermott, a resident of Cold Spring Harbor who lives on Woodbury Road. McDermott said in July that the road was so dangerous she was afraid to pull out of her driveway.  Numerous car crashes have occurred in recent years on the road that connects Cold Spring Harbor and Huntington, two of which resulted in fatalities.

The Uniondale-based traffic engineering consultant GEB HiRise, which will host the Town Hall meeting on Monday along with Berland, conducted the study. The town board authorized the cost of the study to be less than $25,000.

“I think people will be happy with the study,” Berland said in a phone interview this week. “They’ll see the analysis that went into it.”

McDermott said she will attend the meeting on Monday to hear the results of the study and the firm’s recommendations for future change.

“It’s been worth it already,” McDermott said about the time she has dedicated to making the road she travels on everyday safer. “It’s brought my community together in a way that’s been eye opening.”

McDermott said she was surprised by the support she received from both the board and the community thus far, but she expects that the findings will reveal a need for changes.

“It would behoove them to make some changes based on the fatalities and accidents that have gone on there in the past,” McDermott said.

Other Woodbury Road residents have spoken out about the dangerous conditions of the road since the petition for a traffic study began in June of last year.

“The way the turn is constructed, along with slippery conditions, the road equals death,” Woodbury Road resident Stan Cotek said in July.

Another resident, Sierra Mittleman, a neighbor of McDermott’s, also said in July, “Our whole road is starting to look like a memorial.”

Berland said that members of the engineering firm that conducted the study would take questions from community members after they reveal the results and their recommendations on Monday night. Boards will be set up around the room with pictures of sections of the roadway, along with what is suggested for those particular areas, according to Berland.

“I hope we have a great turn out and a lot of people come and share their opinion,” Berland said about Monday’s meeting.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.

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File photo

With warmer weather comes an urge to leave the house, and we expect, as usual, there will be a lot more cars on the road, so now is a good time to remind our readers not to lose their cool behind the wheel.

Whether a driver made a mistake — as we all do from time to time — or not, it can be terrifying for that person when another motorist becomes enraged and takes it out on them. We’ve all experienced tailgating or obnoxious horn-honking, and some of us have been victims of more dire cases of road rage, like prolonged following and actual physical violence or threats. In the less confrontational incidents, frustrated and angry drivers often lash out because it’s easy to hide in the anonymous bubble of a car, when they would not have been so bold to display such anger in person. In the more extreme cases, the mad drivers may have had a screw or two loose to begin with and might have acted out no matter the location or circumstance.

We understand that daily stresses factor into this problem, and Long Island’s immense traffic congestion doesn’t help the frustration we might already be feeling while in the car. But consider this: The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that aggressive driving is a factor in more than half of all traffic fatalities, according to 2009 data. In those cases, “motorists are concerned with the others’ aggressive driving while many are guilty themselves.”

Terrible accidents involving mangled cars happen all the time, but they don’t have to happen over things as petty as payback for being cut off or revenge on a slow-moving vehicle. We urge our readers to slow down when they’re seeing red behind the wheel and take some time to think about what the other person’s situation might be before lashing out. Give each other the benefit of the doubt because we are all humans who make mistakes. Let small road infractions go with a deep exhale. Rising tempers don’t give us license to rage on the road. And the consequences can be deadly.

The Sagtikos Parkway. Photo from NYSDOT

Members of the public will get to weigh in on the future of the Sagtikos-Sunken Meadow Parkway at two New York State Department of Transportation informational meetings next week.

The state department is seeking input for a Sagtikos State Parkway/Sunken Meadow Parkway Operational Study. The goal of the study is to “examine how the roadway functions, identify causes of traffic congestion and accidents and determine how the corridor will function in the future.”

According to the DOT, an average of 90,000 vehicles per day use the Sagtikos-Sunken Meadow State Parkway.

Residents, businesses, and all interested groups are encouraged to attend and provide input regarding the Sagtikos-Sunken Meadow Parkway Study within the towns of Islip, Babylon, Smithtown and Huntington, the department said in a statement.

The meetings will take place on Tuesday, April 14, and Thursday, April 16, 2015. The April 14 meeting is being held at Deer Park High School, 1 Falcon Place, Deer Park, between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. The April 16 meeting is being held at William T. Rogers Middle School, 97 Old Dock Road, Kings Park, between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.

Study-area maps, traffic and accident data, and other related information will be on hand for review. State engineers and representatives will be available to answer questions and receive comments on this operational study.

“Input and suggestions from the local community are strongly encouraged,” according to a DOT statement.

A driver crashed into a pole and a tree while trying to evade police on Saturday, seriously injuring herself, authorities said.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, a 3rd Precinct officer attempted to pull over Alyssa Leppert in a cul-de-sac on Kurt Lane in Hauppauge at about 4:40 p.m., after observing her driving a Chevy TrailBlazer erratically. However, police said, Leppert attempted to get away from the officer by driving on the lawns of multiple houses, causing damage to several lawns, in order to get back onto Route 111.

A few minutes later, police said, Leppert was driving north on Route 111 and lost control of the Chevy, struck a telephone pole, and then hit a tree about 20 yards south of Route 347. The SUV came to a stop at the intersection of Route 111 and Veterans Memorial Highway.

Leppert, a 22-year-old East Northport resident, was in critical condition at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Detectives are investigating the incident.

Leppert has previous, unrelated charges pending against her, including attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance. Attorney information for the defendant was not available.

Miller Place officials proposed a driver's education program for next year. Stock photo

The Miller Place school district plans to bring a driver’s education program back to the district after roughly 10 years without it.

At the Feb. 25 budget meeting, Superintendent Marianne Higuera included a summer pilot driver’s education program in the budget — at no cost to the district. She said course fees would cover the cost of the self-sustaining program.

The district decided to add the program back as there is no location in Miller Place for students to take driver’s education. Currently, they must travel to neighboring districts or schools to participate.

No details have been made regarding the program, but the district expects to have more information at the end of May.