May 17, 2006
Town Reaching Out To CSF?
A little cooperation, please: Last week, the Southold Town Board agreed that in order to embark upon an in-depth traffic study focusing on the impacts of Cross Sound Ferry on area roads, working with the CSF might be the first step.
The decision was made despite the fact that the Town of Southold has been engaged in ongoing litigation with the CSF as a result of the CSF's alleged failure to comply with an approved site plan that expired last August. The town is seeking an injunction to curtail the CSF's operating service to what it was back in 1995, something CSF officials said would have severe impacts and cause a profound loss of revenue.
But the board agreed that a comprehensive study focusing on the operational impacts of the ferry on the quality of life in Southold is crucial.
To that end, Patrick Cleary, of Northport-based Cleary Consulting was on hand with Kerri Collins of Nelson & Pope Engineers to discuss a proposal to provide professional planning services for a traffic study that some say has been needed for some time.
Cleary and Collins outlined their plans for the study, including traffic counts at intersections, gap studies (whether or not traffic signals would help to create traffic gaps and control traffic streams), traffic volumes, observed speeds, levels of service, and vehicle distribution.
"We'll get a sense of how severe the problem is or if it is just perceived," said Cleary.
Cleary and Collins agreed that they'd like to do counts at the CSF site. "It would be better if the Cross Sound Ferry was cooperative," said Cleary.
Cleary would like to hand out origin/destination cards at the ferry terminal to better ascertain the frequency of riders and their needs, which is something that would help to determine possible satellite locations.
That's something that Freddie Wachsberger, president of Southold Citizens for Safe Roads, has been asking the board to consider. Recently, Wachsberger appeared at a work session and urged the board to undertake a comprehensive traffic study. She stressed the need to establish limits on ferry service, including the number of cars on boats, hours of operation, and the number of ferry runs, much like the stand recently taken against ferry service in East Hampton.
Wachsberger emphasized that the organization's goal was not to shut down the ferry. But she voiced concern over an application filed by CSF with the Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals for a parking plan that would bring 450 additional cars to the site, and suggested expansion at other sites.
CSF filed an application to the ZBA on February 23 requesting a special permit to park cars on the two parcels of land that "Cross Sound has owned for over a decade or more," said Stan Mickus, CSF director of marketing. The land is directly adjacent to the existing snack bar parking lot, "used for ferry parking for over 50 years, long before Cross Sound owned the Orient Ferry," he said.
Cleary said the issue of traffic was a regional concern, and if all parties, including Connecticut-based casinos, cooperated, it might be possible to spread out the traffic by offering casino guests tokens for dinner or other incentives to keep them from traveling at peak times.
Councilman Al Krupski agreed that reaching out and asking the CSF to participate in solving the problem is a good move.
Cleary said that his was not an "adversarial" position, and that he wanted to ask the CSF to cooperate to get a clear picture of the issues.
Town Supervisor Scott Russell was skeptical. He agreed to draft a letter asking for cooperation, but said: "I don't anticipate we're going to get it."
Cleary reminded that certain land uses are within the town's jurisdiction, and it would be in the CSF's "best interest" to cooperate.
Another point to remember, said Cleary, is that there are physical limitations on Route 25, which is under state control. "We can't rely on the state to solve our problems," he said.
Councilman Bill Edwards then cited the East Hampton case as a means of setting limits and capping traffic.
To do that, said Collins, it's necessary to know how much traffic is generated by the ferry.
As for the CSF, Mickus said that he chose to reserve the right to comment until CSF has been formally requested by the town to participate in a study.
The cost to the town for Cleary's study, after modifications, is over $10,000. Cleary said he will provide a modified proposal next week.