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St. James street to close temporarily for traffic study

Traffic moves through the intersection of Montclair Avenue

Traffic moves through the intersection of Montclair Avenue and Rutherford Street in St. James, where local residents are complaining about unusually high traffic rates, on May 9, 2014. Credit: Daniel Brennan

Starting Monday, Smithtown officials plan to close a St. James street until at least Friday for a traffic study after residents petitioned to close it for good due to heavy traffic and speeding motorists.

Montclair Avenue between Jericho Turnpike (Route 25) and Rutherford Street will be closed to assess traffic patterns and volumes on surrounding streets, said Mitch Crowley, town director of traffic safety.

The town conducted the first phase of the study last month, strategically placing traffic counters on Rutherford Street and Montclair, Arlington and Ketcham avenues.

The study showed that the two streets most impacted by traffic were Montclair, with an average of 1,500 vehicles a day, and Arlington, with 2,200 vehicles daily during weekdays, Crowley said. Typical volumes on comparable streets average 1,000 vehicles a day, he noted.

Montclair and Arlington avenues are considered "cut-through streets," Crowley added, because they provide north-south passage to and from the residential community to Route 25.

He said the town has not permanently closed a road with traffic volumes comparable to Montclair's in six years. If the road were closed, "it's 1,500 cars a day that are going to be displaced onto adjoining roads," Crowley said, adding that other traffic-easing measures could be implemented.

Route 25 is home to several car dealerships whose customers use residential streets for test drives and where speeding cars blow past stop signs, said residents who have voiced concerns about the safety of children playing outside.

Robert DeMoustes, who lives on Montclair, said the town should close the road for one month to analyze the real impact on surrounding areas. "One week isn't long enough for people to figure out alternate routes around us, thus flawed data," he said at a town board meeting last week. "Is that fair to the residents who are trying to deal with the issues in their neighborhood?"

Councilman Robert Creighton said he would support a lengthier study period. "I don't think you get an accurate assessment of the problem in one week," he said.

He added that officers at the Fourth Precinct have also been alerted about people speeding through the area.

"They have been writing summonses on a regular basis," Creighton said. "It is a serious problem and the police are addressing it."

Crowley said he didn't think the department would need a month to see consistent travel behaviors, but would extend the study at the board's behest.

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