Suffolk workers are expected to activate a traffic signal early next month at the site of a July limousine crash that killed four women on a North Fork winery tour, a county official said.
Neighbors continue to express concern about traffic conditions at Route 48 and Depot Lane in Cutchogue, where county spokesman Justin Meyers said workers have installed new signal equipment that is expected to be turned on the first week of October. Suffolk Legis. Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said Saturday that workers had to finish some mechanical work on the signal.
Currently, flashing red lights on Depot Road and flashing yellow lights on Route 48 alert drivers to the intersection.
Meyers said the new signal was planned long before the deadly accident, to accommodate traffic expected to intensify on the North Fork.
Neighbors who had long fretted about conditions at the crossing said they believed the light would make the area safer, but they expected collisions would still occur due to the growing wine industry and risky moves by limousine and bus drivers.
"It's going to help, but we're still going to have accidents," said Joseph Zuhoski Sr., who has lived on Depot Lane south of the intersection for 63 years.
Zuhoski said limousines and coach buses carrying people on wine-tasting tours continue to make U-turns and block oncoming traffic at the intersection.
On July 18, a limousine driven by Carlos Pino, 58, of Bethpage, made a U-turn on Route 48 (Middle Road) and was struck broadside by a pickup driven by Steven Romeo, 55, of Southold, authorities said.
Prosecutors charged Romeo with driving while intoxicated. His blood-alcohol level was 0.066 one hour and 40 minutes after the crash, below the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Killed were Amy Grabina, 23, of Commack; Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park; and Lauren Baruch, 24, and Brittney Schulman, 23, both of Smithtown. Four others in the limousine -- all women in their 20s -- and both drivers were injured.
Bouquets and wooden crosses decorate a utility pole at the crossroads.
Families of three victims have filed notices of claim against the county and Southold Town. One survivor has filed a lawsuit against both drivers. Family members of the victims could not be reached for comment Saturday.
"We're still going to have mishaps," Zuhoski said. "The other day, a bus and a limo made a U-turn, and it's still happening."
Zuhoski's wife, Sabina Zuhoski, said residents have worried increasingly about traffic accidents as Long Island's North Fork transformed from a sleepy farming region to an agritourism destination in the years since her family moved into their home in 1952.
"It was all farmland at that time," she said. "It was just potato trucks going past."