Monday, May 7, 2007

County plan for busy intersection causes concern


Suffolk County Department of Public Works engineers intended to “alleviate any concerns” regarding its plan for Elwood and Pulaski Roads—or as the county refers to them County Routes 10 and 11, respectively—with their presentation to the Northport-East Northport Board of Education Thursday, April 26.

It seemed, however, to have the reverse effect and several members of the Board and many members of the audience were very vocal in their displeasure.

The plan is to add a right turning lane from Pulaski Road onto Elwood Road north, add sidewalks from Pulaski to the high school and, perhaps the most controversial part of the plan, to merge two lanes into one so the road can cross the railroad tracks. That is necessary because the MTA has put a moratorium on lanes crossing railroad tracks, even if it is just an extra lane on an existing road, according to Bill Hillman, chief engineer for the County DPW. Mr. Hillman also said that the intersection needs to be expanded whether the Matinecock Court housing is built on the northwest corner of the intersection as planned by Housing Help, Inc.
“Looking at the intersection strictly from an engineering viewpoint, it has capacity issues,” he said. “Whether Matinecock Court moves ahead or not is out of our control. We don’t set policy. But it would be to everyone’s best interest to move forward.”
The County was particularly interested in the Board’s opinion because it needs a piece of the district’s Pulaski Road School property on the Elwood Road side to make that plan a reality and hopes to convince the district to dedicate the property. But, Mr. Hillman said, if the district doesn’t dedicate the county will take it anyway. “We would be able to move on the project with a dedication from the schools pretty quickly,” he said. “But a condemnization would take longer postponing the project for three to five years.” Mr. Hillman said the county also needs part of the property meant for Matinecock but Housing Help has already dedicated it.
Trustee Liz Dragone said that she is concerned with the bottleneck that will inevitably be created as two lanes merge into one just before the high school on Elwood. “I understand you want to put sidewalks in, but I’m concerned with kids trying to cross the road there between the cars,” she said.
Board President Arlene Munson questioned Mr. Hillman’s declaration that the intersection needed to be expanded quickly because it is a high accident intersection.
“I have lived there for 25 years and I’d like to see that study,” she said. “We’re talking lots of children here. I’m having issues with this plan.”
Trustee Warren Arthur asked if the railroad tracks create an additional hazard because people try to beat the gate and with this plan the merge would be right before the gate. Mr. Hillman said that he didn’t believe any studies had been done “to that effect.”
Trustee Kay Hutchins Sato said she questioned whether the county’s solution is the best possible. “I know you’re limited by what land you have but if you had an opportunity to do a bridge would you?” she asked. Mr. Hillman said that, while a bridge would afford a great deal of safety, it would be “unsightly.”
Trustee Sato said it seemed as though the DPW’s plan was a “Band-Aid” solution. “I’m just trying to assess, is that something that would hold or would you come back in five years or ten years?”
Mr. Hillman said that the DPW does a capacity analysis using a 20-year growth rate. “We try and design for that,” he said. “We don’t always achieve it but we try to design to have an acceptable level of service.”
Trustee Sato asked if they accounted for the potential Matinecock traffic. Mr. Hillman said it did not.
Trustee Phil Fortuna asked if the county would pick up the expense if the Board chose their own engineer to do a traffic study. Mr. Hillman said that the county did its own study. “It’s two county roads and we feel strongly that this is the right project,” he said. “And we will be moving forward one way or another. We’d love to have it dedicated.”
Trustee Rob Ingraham said that he is concerned about the four feet that would be taken from the Pulaski School grounds playing fields.
“All of that real estate is precious to Pulaski’s children and parents and the baseball field is near and dear to my own heart and I suspect a number of other people in the room,” he said. “Have you actually walked the field and saw what the impact will be? And if so, how would you characterize that?”
Mr. Hillman said that he has not walked the field. “I did visual drivebys and sat at the light and visualized what the impact would be,” he said. But even if school said, ‘we’ll give you the property but we want you to construct a baseball field,’ well we can do that. We construct things.”
There was also a disagreement regarding the peak times of travel in the area and at the school. Mr. Hillman said that he believed most of the morning traffic would be heading south. “I would say afternoon commuter peak times is 5 or 6 p.m and the school’s is 3 p.m. And the school has peak congestion in front of the school and the commuters do at the intersection.” Many audience members shouted, “No!”
President Munson said that commuters don’t arrive home at 5 p.m. and many parents are picking up their children following after school activities at that time.
The plan would also force the removal of many trees planted by Pulaski parents, students and teachers on the Elwood Road side of the schoolyard, a fact that concerns Trustee Dragone for more than aesthetic reasons.
“We’re now putting kids a lot closer to cars,” she said. “By taking away the trees, we are now putting less of a buffer between cars and our children.”
Mr. Hillman said she was right. “And my counter to that is we will reduce accidents at that intersection,” she said.
Karen Walters, an employee of Pulaski and parent of former Pulaski students asked if Mr. Hillman didn’t think all the cars heading north would get tired of waiting in the traffic and veer off on to Tenth Avenue. “That’s where the crossing guard is and many kids walk,” she said.
Mr. Hillman said the merge is “free flowing” which means it will move at a slow, safe speed. “So vehicles won’t veer off at that point because they will be moving,” he said.
Mrs. Walters pointed out that the DPW’s traffic study was done before the high school put in its traffic light on Elwood Road. “So your plan doesn’t incorporate this situation and let me tell you it’s a situation,” she said.
Mr. Hillman said that what the DPW did was an intersection study. “What you’re referring to is a corridor study.”
Mrs. Walters asked him if he didn’t then think a corridor study should be done.
“This merge will work,” he said.
The audience members fairly shouted, “It will not!”
President Munson indicated she agreed with the residents. “You don’t’ drive it. We do,” she said. “It sounds like one car length for the merger. That sounds very unsafe.”
School Board candidate Angelo Pastore said he does not understand why the MTA and the County can’t get together to allow another lane and alleviate this merge.
“Let’s do due diligence with even bigger powers rather than cutting our kids and playing fields short,” he said.
Mr. Hillman said his department has tried to obtain more than a dozen variances and have been unsuccessful every time.
DPW Commissioner Gil Anderson stepped up and said that he would be more than happy to try again. “But they always shoot us down,” he said.
Mr. Hillman suggested the school and community contact their local elected officials to seek help. “If you can persuade them to work with us, that would be wonderful,” he said.
Mr. Anderson suggested that the district allow the DPW’s surveyor to go out and lay the line for a new fence to provide better mapping to see exactly what fields and trees would be affected.
“It will be better than the fuzzy picture here and give people a chance to say, ‘this makes sense, this doesn’t make sense.’”


Anonymous said...

Fight this tooth and nail, it's only another sacrifice by the good people of E. Northport for this crap-hole development we don't want in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Think there's enough illegals in the town already, wait until this goes up, they'll be raping our children and MS13 will be all over the place.

Vote out liberals and democrats and vote in a conservative that has the balls to fight this crap.

Anonymous said...

Millenium Hills is a similar development, rash of drug dealings and gang activity going on.

SUE HHI at any moment we get if/when this goes up