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County help needed to fix concerns at Dix Hills parking lot exit

Peter Gerbasi is concerned about a traffic situation

Peter Gerbasi is concerned about a traffic situation at the T-intersection of Commack Road and Milligan Street on Jan. 10. 2014. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

I'm seeking help solving problems involving an exit for the Park and Ride lot at Commack Road and the Long Island Expressway's eastbound service road in Dix Hills. Posted traffic signs are routinely ignored, creating a hazard for others.-- Peter Gerbasi, Dix Hills

The Park and Ride lot exit is just south of the LIE service road and directly across from Milligan Street. Signs inform drivers not to make a left turn from the lot onto Commack Road and not to block the side street, Milligan, but they don't appear to be having much effect.

Drivers continue to make that left turn, which interferes with other drivers trying to enter Commack Road from Milligan, Gerbasi said.

To make the left turn requires driving across the median that separates the north and south lanes of Commack Road. That's not particularly difficult, Gerbasi said, because the edge of the median is beveled rather than squared off.

Suffolk police agree that his concerns are valid and they are advocating for changes.

Insp. Edward Brady, commanding officer of the Suffolk County Police Department's Second Precinct, said he dispatched a Community-Oriented Police Enforcement, or COPE, officer to visit and evaluate the location in response to our inquiry. Police enforcement was increased, he said, and letters were sent to the county calling for upgrades.

The first letter to the county Department of Public Works, dated Jan. 17, suggested installing a higher curb on the median to pose a more significant obstacle. A second letter, dated Feb. 4, suggested a new sign is needed to tell drivers to stop before they reach the median not on top of it.

"It's a complaint that comes up periodically, but it's really an engineering issue for a more long-term solution," Brady said of the practice of stopping on top of the pavement marking, known as a box junction.

He also contacted the state Department of Transportation to suggest that the No Left Turn sign be replaced with a larger one, and he asked Huntington Town to increase lighting at the location; the town installed two streetlights last month in response to his request.

Suffolk police said five summonses were issued in 2012 and 2013 for "failure to obey traffic device" and "improper turn" at the location. After our inquiry in January, seven more were handed out by early February, Brady said.

It will be up to the county to determine if new signs and a higher median will be installed. "We are evaluating his suggestions and will respond shortly and coordinate any appropriate action to facilitate the enforcement of these infractions with his office," county spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter wrote in an email.

Cedar Creek Park is a source of pride in Nassau County. But since superstorm Sandy, streetlights lining both sides of the park entrance and exit drives have been dark.

"People used to visit the park at night, but now you can't," Carmine Vitale of Wantagh told us.

In the almost year and a half since the storm, many of the park's facilities -- playing fields and courts, archery range, aerodrome, dog run, skating rink and sledding hills -- have been of little use after sundown, when parkgoers who have dared to visit have encountered a roadway in darkness.

"The whole strip, all the way back to the park house, there are no lights at all," said Vitale, whose home is one of about two dozen with backyards that line the road.

"It's a dangerous situation," he said, one that poses safety issues for people driving into or out of the park. Neighbors who walk in the park have told him they cut those excursions short so they can be out by dusk.

Vitale has been especially concerned about the security of his neighborhood; when the streetlights were working, they kept the rear border of the homes illuminated.

The lights will shine again, the county reports, and if repairs go as planned it won't take much longer.

Sandy damaged the electrical system that provides power to the streetlights, Nassau County Public Works Department spokesman Michael Martino said. "The saltwater intrusion caused extensive damage to the electrical system," he wrote in an email. "The work is still in progress and will be completed in early spring."

Vitale expressed disappointment that so many residents have been unable to use the park in the evening, especially children. Without lights, students had little rink time in the afternoon after the end of the school day.

"What's a park for if you can't use it?" he asked.

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