July 12, 2006
What Took So Long?
Commuters heading west on Monday morning couldn't believe their eyes: traffic was actually moving, and moving well on Sunrise Highway and right through County Road 39. The reason: a pilot program that changed a turning lane into an eastbound lane during rush hours and curtailed left hand turns.
The news wasn't all good on the roadways, however. Last week, there was another fatality, the sixth in the past two years.
Obviously, there is much more to be done on both fronts.
The obligation to make the road safe lies squarely with the Southampton Town Police in coordination with their Suffolk and State counterparts. It may be a budgetary issue, but there has always been a deployment problem at play here, as well. We don't profess to know where officers are positioned in the morning hours, but we know where there should be a major presence, and that's on County Road 39.
The Southampton Town Board, too, needs to step up. Six fatal accidents tell us what we need to know: dramatic safety measures need to be implemented immediately, and whatever the cost is, the money must be found.
As for the pilot program, obviously it needs to be expanded, ideally for six months or even more. The only downside is the fact that merchants on the north side of the road may be adversely affected. We suspect, however, that most of their customers come from the east, and thus won't be affected by the left turn ban. Those concerns will be addressed in the permanent solution being planned, so for the moment it is an inconvenience that must be tolerated.
We also offer a suggestion: keep the light at LIU green. Drivers exiting the campus can use Montauk Highway.
As for the cost of putting down and picking up the orange cones, officials have pegged it at about $7,000 per week. Perhaps using inmates from the Yaphank "Honor Farm" correctional facility could help pare down the cost; maybe industrial students looking for before and after school work could be recruited to do the chore in the fall.
One thing is for sure: the traffic situation has become a major embarrassment to the entire East End and a permanent solution must be a number one priority.