Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column
Let's say you're behind the wheel, waiting to pull out of a residential street onto a busy road. When you see a traffic signal to your left turn red, do you presume oncoming traffic will stop?
If you did so at an intersection on Old Country Road in Plainview, you would be in danger.
At the intersection with the southbound Route 135 exit ramp, the westbound signal remains green at least 20 seconds longer.
Neighbors say that poses a hazard about 100 feet to the west, where drivers are trying to exit Sylvia Lane. Unsuspecting drivers "see that the eastbound traffic light is red [and] you assume it's red both ways," a signal that the coast is clear, resident Phil Trugman said.
The neighborhood is accustomed to the signal's timing, he said, but it's likely that visitors aren't.
Nassau County police say 10 accidents have been reported at Old Country Road and Sylvia Lane since the beginning of 2011. Three more were reported a short distance away, at the entrance to Stauber Drive, and another nine at the entrance to the two streets across Old Country Road. All involved westbound vehicles.
Trugman took his concerns to Nassau County and he contacted Watchdog after two accidents in quick succession in the spring. He's seeking to have the traffic signal adjusted "so everyone has red going east and west" at the same time.
The rational for the existing arrangement, according to county Public Works Department spokesman Michael Martino, is to stop eastbound traffic so westbound traffic can make a protected left turn on to 135. Trugman countered that limiting the extended green light to the left-turn lane would achieve the same result.
The county is considering such a change.
Martino said last week that Trugman's proposal "is quite possibly an option," adding that an in-depth engineering study would be necessary to determine its viability. Drivers know well that changes at one Long Island intersection can have a domino effect down the road.
The county is already planning one change that aims to stop traffic on 135 from turning onto Old Country Road at unexpected times: New No Turn on Red signs are being installed on the southbound 135 exit ramp.
The existing No Turn on Red sign was obscured by a blue Hospital sign and, Watchdog can attest, was roundly ignored on a recent afternoon.
It is being replaced by a larger sign, Martino said, and a second will be suspended overhead to "help improve safety and awareness at this signal."
For now, he is urging drivers to "wait until they have a clear indication that there is no oncoming traffic and that the maneuver can be made safely." In other words, we should not infer that a red light we can see means the signal on the far side is red, too.
As for Sylvia Lane: Next time Watchdog is in the neighborhood, she'll use another exit.
Bellport stop sign brings relief
A new stop sign has arrived on a corner in the Town of Brookhaven, and you can almost hear the neighborhood sigh with relief.
Until Thursday, only one corner of the intersection of Head of the Neck Road and Circuit Road had a stop sign. Eight days earlier, on June 20, two cars collided there, sending all occupants -- two drivers and four passengers -- to a nearby hospital, according to Suffolk County police.
Pete Didio and Jason Crane described the scene: An overturned minivan, a sedan with a crashed-in front end, victims waiting for help in a yard across from Didio's house. Crane, first assistant chief of the Bellport Fire Department who was the first emergency responder at the scene, contacted Watchdog after the accident -- and made it clear this wasn't the neighborhood's first effort on behalf of a stop sign.
When Circuit Road, in Bellport Village, was extended north into an unincorporated part of town a few years ago, he said, the neighborhood understood that a stop sign would be required, along with streetlights and storm drains, before the town would sign off. Records show the town accepted the road in 2010.
A short time later, a town crew removed the stop sign on the corner of the old section of road, Didio said, and replaced it with a new one. He and Crane presume the sign was intended for the new section of road. Both said they continued to remind the town that the sign had apparently been installed in the wrong spot.
The new sign arrived the day after Brookhaven Town issued this statement:
"The Town was made aware of the [June 20] accident and subsequently received requests on Monday for a stop sign at Circuit Road at Head of the Neck Road in Bellport. The Town is installing a stop sign at this intersection this week."
The town did not address a question about the residents' earlier efforts.
The new sign was set several feet back from the intersection, where plant growth obstructs a driver's view. Neighbors are hoping the town's next move will involve hedge trimmers.