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Loss of Huntington stop sign irks residents

Hand-lettered sign at end of Cliftwood Drive warns

Hand-lettered sign at end of Cliftwood Drive warns drivers that they can no longer expect traffic on Park Avenue to stop. At right is new traffic roundabout. (May 13, 2013) Credit: Judy Cartwright

A stop sign was removed from a major street in Huntington last week, near one of two new traffic roundabouts on New York Avenue. Some drivers continue to stop at the intersection, but others don't even slow down.

Neighbors have been asking: What happened to the stop sign?

The sign was on a corner of the northbound lane of Park Avenue at Cliftwood Drive, where it provided protection for southbound drivers making a left turn into Cliftwood as well as for those exiting Cliftwood.

But no more.

"What got me and neighbors is the way it [the stop sign] was removed without notice," Cliftwood resident Peter McGullam told Watchdog.

That section of Park Avenue is part of a major state Department of Transportation project to improve drainage and traffic on New York Avenue (Route 110). Since construction began, the neighborhood has made adjustments to shifting traffic lanes and installation of the roundabouts. But residents were given no warning that the stop sign would be removed, McGullam said.

And they're asking questions, including: Which agency removed the sign, and why? Is it possible the removal is temporary -- for the duration of the construction project -- or is it intended to be permanent? And what consideration was given to the safety of drivers turning left onto Cliftwood Drive or those trying to exit that street?

Watchdog called the contractor, HASA Construction, to find out why the stop sign was removed and if the removal is permanent. That office referred us to the state Department of Transportation; a spokeswoman said the department would issue a statement during the week.

When we called Huntington Town, a spokesman said the town had been told that removal of the sign was part of the state roadway redesign. A second stop sign, on the opposite side of the intersection, had been removed earlier.

And, since Park Avenue is designated County Road 35, we checked in with County Legis. William Spencer's office, where we learned that, in response to calls from the neighborhood, Suffolk's Department of Public Works is launching a traffic study of the intersection and the sign removal.

A few days ago, we watched as drivers negotiated the intersection. A white stop line remains on the Park Avenue pavement where the stop sign had been, and a few drivers slowed to a stop. The majority drove through without pausing.

The most worrisome moments came when drivers exiting the roundabout onto Park Avenue were signaling that they planned to make the left turn onto Cliftwood. Until a few days earlier, they would have had a protected left turn. But now they had to wait for an opening to make the left turn, and the result was traffic backing up in the roundabout and spilling out onto the other roadways.

On Cliftwood, residents have put up a sign of their own, hand-printed on cardboard, to warn drivers exiting their street: "Careful! No Stop Sign at Park Ave."

McGullam says without the stop sign, traffic is approaching the roundabout faster than before. He suggests installation of speed bumps to slow traffic and signs warning drivers to slow down.

What kind of sign? "Not the Autobahn," he suggests.

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