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Additions address safety for students who walk to school

Workers excavate the east side of Mud Road to prepare for sidewalk installation. Photo by Donna Newman

This fall, the streets near the Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School will be safer for students who walk to school. The Brookhaven Town Highway Department is nearly finished installing sidewalks on Mud Road, a frequently used route for students who walk to school.

“I am grateful to have finally brought this project to fruition, as residents have been requesting additional sidewalks in the area for the last decade,” Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said. “In 2014, a year after I took office, school district administrators requested a traffic study, while noting 118 students walked to and from Gelinas Jr. High School. Clearly, this pedestrian safety project was warranted.”

The entire project, which will include the paving of Mud Road, will cost $300,000 according to Losquadro, add ding the undertaking will ” help to ensure the safety of students and pedestrians.” The cost includes the sidewalks, retaining walls, a drainage system, a crosswalk and electrical signal work.

A decorative pole with flashing LED lights, activated by pushing a button, will enable pedestrians to halt traffic to cross the street.

Sidewalks were added in front of the school building and to the south. On the west side of Mud Road, sidewalks extend from the school to Brandywine Drive.

Previously, sidewalks had been installed in the fall of 2008 — heading north from the school and west along Christian Avenue to the spot where it meets Friends Road — to accommodate a blind child living in the neighborhood who walked that route to school.

The groundwork for the current project predated the formation of a grass-roots advocacy group called Sidewalks for Safety, founded by Annemarie Waugh in July 2015.

“It’s really wonderful that the town is putting in the sidewalk outside Gelinas!” Waugh wrote in an email. “I hope the sidewalk will go all the way around the treacherous corner on Mud Road, so children walking to and from Gelinas will be safe. I really hope the town will put in many more sidewalks, especially around all the schools and on the busy main roads, so we can have a healthy walkable community.”

Sidewalks for Safety was established by Waugh to raise awareness for pedestrian concerns throughout the Three Village area and to lobby local politicians to affect change. The organization mounted a petition on Change.org to gather signatures from supporters for submission to Brookhaven Town. That website garnered nearly 700 signatures, and the group has obtained more than 500 others on paper.

“Annemarie has been very active in trying to get folks on board with helping improve walkability,” said Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). “I think she is certainly working hard on raising awareness. I talked to her about what I did on Nicolls [Road]. I think most people don’t understand that they drive on roadways that have different levels of government responsible for them.”

Waugh and her group have ramped up their awareness-raising efforts.

“More recently we have been engaged in educating local politicians, school officials and Three Village residents with a newsletter,” she said. “We attended Earth Day at Stony Brook University … and joined with Scout Troop 1911 to collect signatures at the shopping center on 25A.”