Dotted lines causing mad dash to merge
The appearance of dotted lines on Long Island roadways has some drivers unsure how to proceed.
We began hearing their concerns when a long row of dots showed up on the new section of the Northern State Parkway near the Route 110 interchange in Melville.
In the westbound lanes, the dotted line delineates the lane for entering traffic, known as the acceleration lane. But the lane to the right of the dots narrows until there's no lane left.
That's when bewilderment sets in.
"The way this is set up, the cars are riding to the very end, then suddenly realize the lane ENDS, causing them to quickly move left and, at times, cutting off a car already on the road," Steve Vassallo of Dix Hills told us in an email.
The dotted markings became required under a 2009 revision of the national Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Eileen Peters said. Here's the department's explanation:
Dotted lines "must be used to separate a regular through lane that continues beyond the interchange from a lane with a different function" -- such as an acceleration lane -- "or from a through lane that becomes a mandatory exit lane."
In other words: The dotted line in the example above signals that the acceleration lane is coming to an end. And yes, Peters said, drivers should expect to move across the dotted line, though with "appropriate care while entering or exiting the highway."
Old-style markings — broken lines, such as those between two travel lanes — were not effective as a signal that a lane would be ending, the manual says and adds: "The dotted lane line markings now required . . . clearly distinguish these as lanes that do not continue."
When in doubt, here's a strategy for keeping calm: Stay parallel to the solid line on your right, the one that separates the road from the shoulder.
Solid lines are something we can understand.
— JUDY CARTWRIGHT
I live on Randall Road, a double yellow line residential road in Shoreham. It has a 30-mph speed limit that dips to 20 mph in a school zone, but cars speed by in excess of 50 mph every day. We believe stop signs would force cars to slow down, and we have been going door to door with a petition and I have submitted a letter to my local legislators. We would like to be proactive rather than reactive.
-- Amy Stein, Shoreham
The proactive efforts of Stein and other residents paid off before we could catch up with them: Two stop signs were installed on Randall Road during the summer.
Brookhaven Town installed them in June at intersections on either side of the entrance to Albert G. Prodell Middle School. In the process, two digital speed-readout signs were removed, and Stein said cars have continued to speed past, often ignoring the stop signs.
She hoped to get the digital readouts back because they would give drivers "proof of speeding."
We asked Brookhaven Town about that possibility as well as whether another measure Stein had proposed, a traffic signal, could be considered.
First, the readouts: The town said the stop signs have made the digital signs obsolete. "Now that there are stop signs immediately before and after the school driveway, speeding is not an issue in this zone," highway department spokesman Frank Petrignani said.
That's not exactly how Stein sees it, which leads to another measure she proposed, a traffic signal. Petrignani said the department had agreed to study placing a signal at the school driveway but "now that stop signs are installed, both north and south of the school, there would be no need" for a signal.
Which brings us to traffic enforcement: Insp. William Neubauer, commanding officer of the Suffolk County Police Department's Seventh Precinct, said Randall Road "was first designated a formal patrol check for our officers in 2010 — and, of course, currently remains so" because of community complaints.
The precinct had also deployed a speed-display trailer for a week and a half before we inquired, he said, the third time this year, and 150 summonses for various traffic violations had been issued there as of late October.
The town did make one more change: A sidewalk was installed in front of the school in October. A group initiated by Stein and resident Colette Grosso, Neighbors United for Traffic Safety in Shoreham, or NUTSS, posted a "HOORAY!" on Facebook and noted in a recent update:
"We have to remember, just because there is a double yellow line doesn't make it a highway. Families live here, and kids walk to school . . . Saving 30 seconds by traveling at 45-50 mph isn't worth it."
— MICHAEL R. EBERT