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Catching on up 2013's issues: Part one

New traffic signals on Round Swamp Road are

New traffic signals on Round Swamp Road are intended to slow traffic. When the first light, at Highhold Drive, turned red, the white car pulled to the side to avoid a collision. (July 26, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Judy Cartwright

This is the first of two parts.

The end of the year gives us a chance to catch up with some of the issues that were unresolved when they last appeared on the Watchdog page. Here's an update of five, starting with the traffic situation on Round Swamp Road in the West Hills section of Huntington.

ROUND SWAMP ROAD. We heard from drivers when two traffic signals showed up several months ago on Round Swamp Road in the West Hills section of Huntington.

The road is a popular alternative to Route 110 between Jericho Turnpike and the Northern State Parkway, and many drivers were not pleased because the signals had the potential to slow the commute. Their patience was tested further when the signals stayed red for so long that traffic backed up for long stretches: We watched one day as cars, even school buses, drove right on through.

UPDATE: An engineer from the manufacturer inspected the signals in September. What he found required new equipment.

"They replaced two cameras that weren't operating as designed," Stephen McGloin, Huntington's director of transportation and traffic safety, said earlier this month. Since then, the system is "back to operating as originally designed," he said.

The signals are part of a plan to slow traffic on the 1.4-mile stretch of road, which averaged 17 accidents a year in the past four years. The plan called for cars moving at the posted 30 mph speed limit to be rewarded with a green signal, McGloin said. In the spring he expects to compare a full year of accident reports -- both the numbers and types of crashes -- to those from previous years to gauge the effectiveness of the signals and determine if other measures are needed to improve traffic safety.

The numbers so far appear promising: Suffolk County police report that, from the last time we checked (mid-July) until mid-November, two accidents were reported along the roadway (excluding accidents at Jericho Turnpike and Northern State Parkway); one was so minor that no report was filed.

"From my perspective, it's a success," said Kevin Smolich, who lives near the road. "The benefit of the reduced speed is there, and the motorists are getting acclimated to the change."

Robert Halle of Huntington, who told us about the traffic signals in July, said he agrees that they're working better. Still, he wrote in an email, "I wonder about the efficacy if people just speed up again after they pass through these lights."

He said he winds up at a red signal at least half the time, "usually with other cars in front of me," he said. "The stop times though are very brief compared to the way they were over the summer, when they were absolutely dysfunctional."

RED LIGHT CAMERAS. Neighbors protested when installation of cameras at the Great East Neck Road-Arnold Avenue intersection in West Babylon began in the spring. The intrusive flashing white lights were unwelcome on a street lined with homes.

Suffolk County defended the location and said sites for the cameras are chosen based on the following:

* Which have the most accidents, specifically right-angle crashes

* Which are suitable for the necessary infrastructure

* Will other construction projects pose a conflict

* How many red light violations are recorded by video surveillance in a 16-hour stretch; the county said more than 70 were recorded at this location.

One of the two cameras is atop a pole positioned in Daniel McCarthy's front yard. He obtained four years of accident reports for the intersection from Suffolk County police and counted three right-angle accidents, a number he says isn't sufficient to justify the cameras.

UPDATE: Suffolk County says the number of red light camera citations supports the need for the cameras: 1,418 have been issued since they went into operation July 24, spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter said. "By having 1,400 citations there in less than half a year, it seems the cameras were warranted," she said. The cameras are intended to make an intersection safer for cars as well as pedestrians, she said.

The location will be reviewed at the end of one year to determine if the cameras should remain or be shifted to another intersection, Baird-Streeter said.

And, in case you were wondering: The red light cameras that produce the most citations in Suffolk County are at Route 110 and Conklin Street.

Consider yourself warned.


PEDESTRIAN CROSSING. Marilyn Weissman continues to press for changes to improve safety for pedestrians on a section of Oceanside Road.

Weissman, who has lived in her Oceanside neighborhood for 55 years, asked for a crosswalk in the blocks south of Young Israel synagogue, plus a portable Pedestrian Crossing stanchion that could be used on Saturdays and holidays.

There is a crosswalk on the north side of the synagogue, and a crossing guard is there on Saturdays and holidays. But for neighbors who live south of the synagogue, walking that far and negotiating obstacles along the way presents a challenge, especially for those who rely on wheelchairs, walkers and canes.

Nassau County sent a traffic engineer to examine the road and posted a new sign prohibiting truck traffic.

UPDATE: No crosswalk or pedestrian stanchion has been installed.

There's no way to know if such measures could have prevented an accident in early November. Weissman was hit by a car as she crossed the street on her way to a Monday evening study group. She was taken to a hospital and released after several hours.

"It was a terrible experience but, thank God, I'm pretty strong for my age," said Weissman, who is 82. "I banged my head, had a grapefruit-size lump on my head and on my knee."

The experience barely slowed her efforts; she recently completed a new letter asking public officials why pedestrian-crossing stanchions are set up on other roads but not on Oceanside Road.


FATAL 110 LOCATION. A fatal accident in August on Route 110 in East Farmingdale prompted a request for a change in the traffic median.

Judy Stein of East Meadow had just left a parking lot near The Place Furniture Galleries and driven across the southbound lanes of 110 to an opening in the traffic median. She was waiting to make a left turn into the northbound lanes when her car was hit by a southbound truck.

"I would sleep better at night if this left turn was prohibited," her daughter, Barbara Kaplan of Roslyn Heights, said. She urged the state to close the median opening.

UPDATE. The state Department of Transportation told us at the time that the site would be investigated to determine if the opening should be closed or if other traffic control measures are appropriate. The department said earlier this month the study is expected to be completed by the end of next month.

SIDEWALK DAMAGE. Long Island sidewalks that arrived decades ago with housing developments are in need of repair.

In March we featured one in Commack -- "Kids in the neighborhood are tripping over the broken-up sidewalk," resident Michael Martino told us at the time. But when the Smithtown Highway Department's repair season ended in November, Martino contacted us again. "It's coming up on wintertime and the sidewalk still hasn't been touched," he said. "It's getting worse."

UPDATE. Town Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgenson said the sidewalk on Martino's street, Putnam Court, was one of many that didn't get repaired in 2013 because priority was given to those damaged by storms Irene and Sandy. "We had 200 or 300 trees that ripped up sidewalks totally," he said. "That's what I focused on, where the sidewalk was missing."

Jorgenson said the 2014 season will make repairs based on the severity of a sidewalk's damage -- and repairs won't be done unless a homeowner approves removal of the tree that's causing the problem.

The town formerly cut away tree roots so new sections of sidewalk could be laid, an act that he said led to weakened trees that became susceptible to storms -- and necessitated another repair several years later. When repairs shifted to the Highway Department, Jorgenson said, he changed the policy to require tree removal.

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