A West Babylon road where motorists often speed past stop signs, school buses and fire trucks is getting two new traffic signals thanks to a state grant.
Busy Arnold Avenue is often used as a cut-through for drivers looking to avoid the congestion of Route 109, officials said. But on the stretch between Great East Neck Road and Albin Avenue, where a high school and fire station are located near each other, everyday traffic can become even more dangerous.
"It's been an ongoing problem for years," West Babylon Fire Chief Peter McArdle said.
There are two hot spots: the driveway of the firehouse and the back driveway of the high school. McArdle said motorists largely heed the flashing lights and sirens when trucks go out on a call, but when the firefighters return and try to back their trucks into the station, the scene is chaotic.
"People do not want to wait," McArdle said. Vehicles will swerve around fire trucks, he said, and when he began having firefighters stand in the street to stop the cars, the department members were nearly hit by impatient drivers.
Similarly, motorists do not yield to buses entering and exiting from behind West Babylon High School, said Jay McGraw, who lives nearby. Although there are stop signs, drivers often ignore them, he said.
"It's out of control," he said. "The signs are clearly marked, but nobody stops. It's a horror show out there."
Babylon officials said the town's traffic safety division has been looking into the issue for some time based on fire department and resident complaints. In the past five years there have been nine accidents on that section of Arnold Avenue, they said. Recently the town put in rumble strips and other safety features, but problems continued, said Deputy Supervisor Tony Martinez.
"The area is kind of a perfect storm," he said. "You have all of the components for something bad to happen there."
It has been 15 years since the town last took the lead on a new traffic light, said town spokesman Kevin Bonner. New lights are pricey, he said, and the town was attempting to find funding when state Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) helped secure $240,000 in grant money for the project, which will cover the entire cost. Babylon workers will provide contract administration, planning review and construction inspection to supplement the grant.
The light at the rear driveway of the high school will be a "rest in red" signal, displaying red in all directions until a vehicle approaches. After the first vehicle stops at the intersection, the signal will turn green and remain green for vehicles lined-up behind that vehicle until all motorists clear the intersection. The signal at the firehouse will be a flashing signal when no fire vehicles are present, turning to a three-color traffic signal when fire vehicles are in use.
McGraw said he's happy about the new signal, due to be in place by the fall. "I think it will be a positive thing and will make the area safer," he said.