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Aug 7, 2013 10:03 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Officials Float Ideas To Help Alleviate Traffic Following Serious Accidents

Aug 7, 2013 10:59 AM

Another year, another crash, another traffic jam on County Road 39. And another discussion about what can—and cannot—be done to prevent such long delays the next time a bad accident occurs on the South Fork’s main artery.

A year after they held an almost identical roundtable meeting following a serious accident that forced the closure of the road for nearly six hours, Southampton Town officials met again last Thursday, August 1, to again hash out the details of how emergency crews respond to major traffic accidents on County Road 39, and what can be done to help alleviate the maddening gridlock that ensues at the choke-point and typically lasts for hours.

With few alternatives to the time-consuming protocols for emergency crews, police and transportation officials following fatal and some serious accidents, the discussion ultimately shifted to possibilities for encouraging people to stay off the roads when such emergencies occur.

A year ago, when an accident shut down the main artery in the middle of a summer afternoon, gridlocking traffic in the entire Southampton Village corridor, commuters had little option but to wade into the maelstrom and wait until it cleared in late evening. But last month, when a fatal, early morning accident on County Road 39 effectively halted traffic on the only two roads that lead all the way through the Southampton area, many commuters simply turned around, abandoning their workday. Officials said that if more could have been warned about the true extent of the delays they faced, more might have done so earlier, easing the logjam, to some degree, for those who remained.

Town Board members asked whether traffic information signs on the Long Island Expressway could be used to warn commuters and service workers coming from points west, and whether new electronic billboards could be put up on Sunrise Highway and used in an emergency to warn commuters that they faced epic delays.

“If we can use those signs to let people know ... it may at least give people the heads-up that there is going to be a road closure,” Councilman Chris Nuzzi said during a Town Board work session on August 1. “What about ... requesting the state to put permanent signs [on Sunrise Highway] to make people aware, turn it on when you need to? They’ve got the existing infrastructure.”

Other options were bandied about in a brainstorming session seeking ways to speed up the road closure, such as the use of Suffolk County Police helicopters to shuttle emergency crews to the scene of accidents, or to photograph accidents scenes from above so that they could be cleared quickly and analyzed later. Both suggestions were quickly dismissed as impractical by other officials.

Town Transportation Director Tom Neely said the average time of road closure on County Road 39 following a serious accident is 255 minutes—nearly four and a half hours. The number of severe accidents has gone down markedly since the highway was widened in 2008, but the accidents that occurred almost exactly a year apart show that the when they do happen, the options are still very limited for getting them cleared up and the roadway opened again quickly.

Town Police Chief Robert Pearce said the complications of severe accidents are so many that clearing them quickly is essentially impossible.

“When it’s a fatality, certain protocols immediately go into effect,” Chief Pearce said. “This one was horrific in nature, and the debris field stretched a quarter of a mile,” he added, referring to the crash that claimed the life of 29-year-old Carissa Castillo of Shirley. “The duty officer can send out traffic alerts, but the damage is done. It bogs down very quick.”

The chief noted that both this year’s accidents and the one last summer involved commercial vehicles—two of the crashes occurring just four days apart involved Hampton Jitney buses—which means that a crash investigation team from the State Department of Transportation must come to analyze the scene before debris can be cleared away. In instances when criminal charges may be filed, police must also do their own accident reconstruction and painstaking evidence gathering. Officials said neither process can be wrapped up quickly.

The other main protocol that causes long delays at the scene of fatal accidents is the presence of a coroner from the Suffolk County medical examiner’s office to oversee the removal of the victim or victims from vehicles so that they can be examined at a mortuary. The county coroners are often scattered around the far reaches of the county and prevented from responding quickly by the same traffic snarls they are rushing to alleviate.

“The real problem is we don’t have alternative routes for traffic,” Councilwoman Bridget Fleming said. “We are a one-road town. When that road is clogged, how do you get people off the island?”

The conversation then turned to ways to possibly reduce further the likelihood of bad accidents, so that the catastrophic tie-ups are at least less common. Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst suggested that the town look into getting speed cameras posted on County Road 39 to slow down traffic, a proposal that Mr. Neely said has already been discussed with the county.

Chief Pearce said his department was already preparing to start an aggressive driving enforcement effort, with the help of state funding, specifically to encourage a crackdown on speeding—which has been indicated as a contributing factor in last month’s fatal crash.

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Great reporting. Hope we never see the day when speed cameras are put into place
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 7, 13 11:30 AM
2 members liked this comment
You can bank on it IMO, as much as we all squirm at the thought of Big Brother and Sister watching.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 7, 13 11:34 AM
I'm surprised cameras aren't already installed like they are in other areas where there are a lot of accidents. They may help with crime scene investigation and think how much revenue they would generate for the Town.
By Q333 (161), Southampton on Aug 7, 13 12:53 PM
Why not? What's the difference between having speed cameras or a patrol car sitting in a speed trap.

Europe has been using speed cameras extensively for decades with good results.

See those "camera" like things on patrol car trunks? Those are license plate scanners, logging the date, time, and location of thousands of vehicles and uploading it to a database.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Aug 7, 13 2:04 PM
1 member liked this comment
A patrol car means someone (an officer) has to see you speeding and record that with his recoding device (or based on experience) and issue you a ticket along with an affidavit swearing that what the officer alleges is true. You can have a day in court and require the officer to testify and question the calibration etc. of the speed monitoring device (or the abilities of the officer's judgement).

A speed camera is triggered by your vehicle exceeding a prescribed forumla for passing two ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 7, 13 2:15 PM
Not to mention all the surveillance cameras on light poles etc.. Next time you go to Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, look up. There are a number everywhere. Wasn't there an article here on this?

The technology exists, in this post-9/11 world, for facial recognition software to be linked in real time to the video feed. NYC has an extensive center for this I believe that ties together all data feeds (including "sniffers" for contraband located throughout the city).

As RealityFirst suggests, ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 7, 13 2:18 PM
Now we're talkin' . . .

Well done, folks.

The East End Shuttle should be part of the solution. [aka South Fork Commuter Connection]

Build It and They Will Come.

PS -- See the other article just posted about longer green lights.


What is the status of the LIRR scoot trains?

By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 7, 13 11:33 AM
The Peconic Bay Causeway....
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Aug 7, 13 11:41 AM
There is absolutely zero way to alleviate traffic following an accident. They should have been discouraging growth out here since the 80's. Now it's too late. Well done all.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Aug 7, 13 11:46 AM
3 members liked this comment
If 30% of those in cars could take the East End Shuttle, as was done a few years ago, the situation would be improved, with relatively small infrastructure costs IMO.

This problem will require a variety of solutions.

Why not start with the tools which are already in our tool bag?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 7, 13 11:49 AM
"They" did discourage growth out here twenty five years ago by not building a bypass or extending Sunrise Highway. How's that working out for you?
Aug 7, 13 1:43 PM appended by VOS
"If you build it, they will come." If you don't build it they will come anyway. Any assertions that not extending Sunrise or building a bypass thirty years ago has served to curtail growth is no more valid than my assertion it has not.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Aug 7, 13 1:43 PM
Very well, because if that road had been built the East End would be even MORE crowded, a point that has been made in the comments under other articles.

Plus looking in the rear-view mirror is probably not that helpful here.

We are where we are . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 7, 13 1:58 PM
Thank you PBR. You seem to be the only one here that 'gets it'. And ftr, I'm all for the shuttle, I just don't think you'd ever see user adoption that would add up to anything meaningful to alleviate the traffic.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Aug 8, 13 8:57 AM
As traffic gets more and more crowded, drivers will naturally evolve (think Darwin) and adapt to new conditions IMO. Yes, things may have to get worse first . . .

To exaggerate in order to make the point, how many people in NYC drive to work?

Build It and They Will Come . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 8, 13 9:03 AM
A few years ago they put a barrier between the eastbound and westbound lanes of Sunrise Hwy so people couldn't turn around. Not exactly the best best idea that some genius had. They should make a few U-turn areas past the Shinnecock exit so commuters and vacationers can turn around and not spend 4 or more hours stuck in those traffice jams! C'mon guys, get with it and DO SOMETHING!
By jkp720 (8), Westhampton on Aug 7, 13 12:43 PM
2 members liked this comment
Talk is good. The first step that should be easiest is alerting and redirecting if possible traffic.
By Mets fan (1501), Southampton on Aug 7, 13 12:54 PM
2 members liked this comment
They can start with a text alert that people (esp residents and commuters) can sign up for. Easy and cheap.
By zaz (197), East Hampton on Aug 7, 13 12:58 PM
2 members liked this comment
This. Or some digital signage would be helpful, along with the ability to turn around as jkp mentioned. Bottom line is they just don't care.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Aug 7, 13 1:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Drop the speed zone to 25-30, If they'd just slow the hell down there wouldn't be a mess.
By 1640sWhaler (74), Sag Harbor/Easthampton on Aug 7, 13 1:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
How about clearing one lane or the shoulder on each side after an accident to let traffic pass like the LIE does, instead of closing both down for hours on end.
By moonpie (43), Southampton on Aug 7, 13 1:54 PM
3 members liked this comment
The first photo at the top is from last summer's crash by the Lobster Inn. Amazing the driver survived IMO. [Link below and in the drop-down list above]

SHT is linked up with the County's Code Red system which sends alerts to phones, although it is not clear if the recent crashes on 39a activated this system. If they did not, they should have IMO, and our leaders should implement this improvement in some fashion ASAP.

The following sites appear to be geared to more general emergencies ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 7, 13 1:55 PM
Bring back the massive sign with the cop pointing a speed gun at you. that was a great use of taxpayer $$
By littleplains (305), olde england on Aug 7, 13 5:58 PM
Have a turnaround further west on sunrise highway where people can turn around. Have it chained off most of the time. Have emergency personnel open it after a bad accident, allowing eastbound traffic to turn around farther west and go home.
By btdt (449), water mill on Aug 7, 13 6:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
Hampton Jitney should relocate up island and when they travel on Count Rd 39 provide them with a police escort.If this solution was in place two of the last three serious accident would have been avoided,Still no solution from Linda Kabot,,,she must have at least one.
By Etians rd (543), Southampton on Aug 7, 13 8:31 PM
That was sarcasm, right?
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Aug 7, 13 11:51 PM
The key is reliable mass transit to our area. The towns need to work with the LIRR to get a shuttle train set up between Westhampton and Montauk that runs a few times in the morning and evenings and build a parking lot to accommodate parking at the departure station. Also, encourage contractors to leave big trucks / equipment / etc. out east and to take more fuel efficient cars to their destination.

In addition to a general safety issue I'm sure that everyone who makes the "trade parade" ...more
By Rich Morey (378), East Hampton on Aug 7, 13 10:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
There is too much development going on and I don't know what Southampton Town is doing with the Preservation Fund money, but traffic was never this bad.
People are not watching the road; the speed limit is slow enough. Stop signs are put in the wrong areas and create anxiety. The traffic calming measures are not well thought out.
By rvs (106), sag harbor on Aug 7, 13 11:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
There are too many vehicles for too small of a highway! The rich and famous come to the Hamptons to be seen in their fancy cars not a shuttle bus. A new road will be built wether you like it or not it is time to start the planning. This traffic problem is only going to get worse no signs or other sceme will fix this problem. The plan twenty five years ago of doing nothing has been a complete deadly failure.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Aug 8, 13 12:22 AM
2 members liked this comment
Mass transit will do nothing to alleviate the problem of traffic headed east during the weekday, which is the traffic that was affected during both recent accidents. The majority of people caught in the eastbound mess are described as "trade parade." They are suppliers of all sorts of services. They have big trucks. They have tools, they have tile, fixtures, lumber, insulation, pool chemicals, food deliveries to supermarkets, product deliveries to residences and shops like Kmart, bicycle stores, ...more
By btdt (449), water mill on Aug 8, 13 3:22 AM
"Mass transit will do nothing to alleviate . . . "

Isn't this a bit of simplistic exaggeration?

Why not use the tools we already have in the tool box?

The LIRR tracks are there. Should we ignore them and stick our heads in the sand?

Solving our problem will require skillful thinking, and a variety of actions, each of which on its own may not "solve" the whole problem. It will require CHANGE, something which certain people may have trouble with?

Some ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 8, 13 7:41 AM
PS btdt, the MTA has already ordered some scoot trains.

Why not put them to use as soon as possible as a partial not-nothing solution?

What's that old tune?

"Oh Danny boy, the tracks, the tracks, are calling us . . . " ?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 8, 13 8:28 AM
brdt, we are looking forward to your thoughts on using the tools we already have in the tool bog (LIRR tracks and MTA scoot trains) to help alleviate the crunch of traffic on CR39, especially during the morning commute.

Should we just ignore these tools?

Thank you.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 9, 13 7:00 AM
We have no more tools the only people that ride the bus line here are immigrants with no cars. Maybe you should yourself on highway planning and learn you can't put more cars on a highway than it is designed for or you have a parking lot. On another thread you wrote we should utilize the freight yard in Yaphank and have people transfer to buses. Why would someone take a train on Greenport line when they can go directly to the south fork on the Montaul line? Your ideas are not even coherent. You ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Aug 8, 13 8:32 AM
You did not read those previous posts correctly.

Please stop misrepresenting what was said, and post exact quotes if you want to discuss a particular issue.

Thank you.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 8, 13 8:56 AM
Why don't you get your crayons, draw up your plans and submit them to a legislative body? Posting your Robert Moses inspired vision for the future here does no good. Make it happen, dude.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Aug 8, 13 9:33 AM
1 member liked this comment
Are you sure you could stand the loneliness of being in the cave by yourself?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 8, 13 12:02 PM
chief1, we are still waiting for an "exact quote" as requested above, plus all the factual details you have failed to provide re: other articles, including the crash between the Jitney and the dump truck, which you immediately said was the fault of the Jitney driver, and which you may have witnessed personally.

Thank you.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 9, 13 6:57 AM
Mass transit, whether it be bus or train, will not help with this problem. As btdt stated, many are tradesmen that need tools etc; they need their trucks. Even if it's someone that, say, works in an office--ok, so they get to the train station/bus station and get dropped off--now how do they get to their job from the station? I can't see this being a feasible option for them. Not all stores/offices are around the corner from the bus stop or train station. And let's face it, people are not going ...more
By Miss K. (103), East Quogue on Aug 8, 13 9:35 AM
2 members liked this comment
Miss K., should we attempt to use the LIRR tracks more productively in some way, or just ignore this already-built resource, for which the MTA has already ordered scoot trains as a pilot program?

Thank you.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 8, 13 9:56 AM
Yep, you pretty much hit the nail on the head here.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Aug 8, 13 3:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you Miss K. for the courtesy of your reply on how you think we should use the existing LIRR tracks, and the MTA scoot trains on order, to help alleviate the commuter traffic on CR39.

Could these tools be used productively in any way, or should we ignore them?

Thank you.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 9, 13 7:04 AM
PBR you are not understanding...I took the train a few years ago to work in Southampton Village from Hampton Bays..yes it was fast and eay, til i got to the station in Southampton. I then had to get a ride to the office if it rained. I walked other days. Then my son would call me sick from school to pick him up or he missed the bus etc. how do you propose we ,especially single parents with no one to pick up the slack, make this work?
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Aug 8, 13 10:58 AM
2 members liked this comment
Yes you are correct, that pilot program did not have proper interconnecting bus routes to support more ridership on the train. It was after all just an experiment.

The original group supporting the concept of an East End Shuttle (Five Town Rural Transit) had a much broader vision for a system which could work IMO if, and only if, our leaders wish to


here and commit to building out a well-designed system, in spite of the naysayers' myopic vision. The 5TRT web site ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 8, 13 11:59 AM
If my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a roller skate. New York City has a 24 hour a day seven day a week transit system that puts 95% of its populace within a few blocks of a bus or train stop. It also has eight million resident users and an equal, or greater, number of commuters. It also has a huge fleet of medallion and gypsy cabs as well as car services available anywhere. Is that what you envision?

You could run scoot trains every five minutes like some subways but who would ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Aug 8, 13 12:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you for your productive adult reply.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 8, 13 12:33 PM
Why is it that everyone else needs to submit detailed demographic, usage and engineering reports but PBR can just repeat "Scoot Trains" ad nauseum? Fill out your proposal.

Tell us how to get to the fishing docks in Montauk at five in the morning, a jobsite in Noyac at seven, school in Sag harbor at eight, a workplace in Amagansett at nine and a doctor's appointment on Meeting House Lane at eleven, a restaurant at eight, a club at eleven. Tell us how those people get home after an hour ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Aug 8, 13 12:50 PM
2 members liked this comment
Obviously, as has been said here plenty of times, the East End Shuttle is only a partial solution, one that must be implemented with many other small solutions.

The point is NOT (and never has been) that EVERYONE is going to use this service 24/7. But if the vehicle count on CR39 could be reduced 20-30% during the commute hours, would this not help?

What do YOU propose we do with the LIRR tracks and MTA scoot trains ALREADY PURCHASED? Let them sit idle? Specifics please.

The ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 8, 13 1:46 PM
VOS, we are curious to hear your thoughts on using the LIRR tracks and MTA scoot trains productively in some fashion to reduce congestion on CR39 during the commute hours.

Or should we just ignore these tools we already have?

Thank you.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 9, 13 7:06 AM
The recent County Road 39 accidents and resulting 9 hour+ traffic snarls also should give rise to Town Officials rethinking their pro-development stance on approving PDD zoning changes for high-traffic generators such as supermarkets on this busy stretch of roadway, in my opinion.

I have been attending many fire department open houses over this summer throughout our community and several firefighters/EMS specialists have also spoken with me about the need for a coroner to be designated ...more
By Linda Kabot (14), Quogue on Aug 8, 13 10:10 PM
It will be interesting to see how well thought out this plan is, given that "the portion [of the LIRR tracks] . . . alongside of County Road 39" is quite short. Where will the emergency vehicles go once this newly paved portion of the tracks ends? Won't they have to re-join CR39 which in theory is already at a dead stop or crawling?

Then what about this caveat?

"Of course, such usage would only be when the LIRR trains are not running during that particular timeframe that a State ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 8, 13 10:39 PM
There is also no mention of using the LIRR tracks for an East End Shuttle, including the MTA scoot trains which have already been ordered.

A further explanation would be appreciated Ms. Kabot.

Thank you.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 8, 13 10:41 PM
PS Ms. Kabot,

When you make your CR39 "PaveTrack2017" plan public, please include all the legal and engineering aspects, including designing the new paved portion of the LIRR tracks:

-- access for construction vehicles during construction (2013-2017)
-- detour routes for all traffic during construction
-- new road bed base for weight of fire trucks, detoured semi trailers, etc.
(need to rip out LIRR tracks to accomplish this and widen base?)
-- legal issues for ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 9, 13 7:16 AM
1 member liked this comment
If someone has a concept for the traffic problem they suddenly need every detail upfront? Tell me PBR where are your details for your shuttle bus? Did you realize we already have the Hampton Jitney, and county bus service? We are not an urban area mass transit only works in urban areas. A new highway is the only way to move more vehicles.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Aug 9, 13 8:05 AM
Your reply is non-responsive.

"Exact quotes"

Is there some part of this you don't understand?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 9, 13 8:14 AM
PS chief1, the East End Shuttle is a RAIL solution, not a "shuttle bus."

I cannot deal with you any more.

Disclaimer -- any statements which chief1 makes about my previous posts should not be considered accurate (IMO).

Over and out, sir.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 9, 13 8:16 AM
Call a Kabot - your idea is a non-starter. CR 39 runs along the LIRR for a generous .65 miles. There's a bridge that goes over St. Andrews road. The amount of $$$ that would be spent to construct that would never be worth it because it only helps if there's an accident in that specific stretch, when trains aren't running and doesn't alleviate the problem which is a road pro-longed road closure. Please go back to the drawing board.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 9, 13 9:14 AM
1 member liked this comment
With the November Ejections coming up, hopefully Ms. Kabot will be proffering a white paper which will detail her plan (as an official candidate).

It is unclear where this train of thought is headed IMO.

The NOTA party may be gaining a head of steam here?


[None of the Above]
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 9, 13 9:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
Frequency is what is at issue here.

Our frequency of accidents ordinarily did not require a DOT outpost this far East. 1 to 3 times a year does not warrant the resources to have qualified investigators within a 10-15 mile radius of our local roads.

Commercial vehicles are involved in accidents on 495 on a weekly basis. Some weeks, it's on a daily basis. The crew to take care of a fatality is close by further west, and can pull the whole "kit 'n' caboodle" off in three hours, ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 10, 13 3:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you Linda Kabot for your brief reply under the other article, about the East End Shuttle concept. We look forward to hearing details of this, and your thoughts on the feasibility of paving a portion of the LIRR tracks, in light of some of the engineering and legal questions noted above. This would include issues of Eminent Domain required for any "taking" of land needed to accomplish the paving work.

Thank you.

By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 10, 13 5:39 AM
Shirley to Boston and Virginia Beach Causeway


VT's Peconic Bay Causeway?

Fiddle Fiddle Fiddle
By Nero (301), Sag Harbor on Aug 9, 13 10:32 AM
As a former certified and experienced traffic investigator it is my professional opinion that one of the biggest problems our town has is that ZERO of a transportation director Tom Neely....
He was a political appointee from a corrupt administration as a favor to certain people....
He does NOTHING but hide in his office or goes to meetings and collects a HUGE salary for his MALFEASANCE!
ENOUGH is ENOUGH! When are we going to stand up and put our town board on notice by telling them ...more
By eastender111 (1), southampton on Aug 10, 13 1:20 AM
1 member liked this comment

Nice rant.

Fact remains is, 35 is the lowball number. Means, that's what is posted, and if you're busted we make more money. It's not about the lack of a sign, it's the question of enforcement.

I mean, really, how many cops write a ticket for "failure to signal" in broad daylight?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 10, 13 3:06 AM
1 member liked this comment
Well said eastender111 and Mr. Z (x2).

"Get rid of the do nothings and dead wood . . . "

Yup -- the November Ejections are right around the corner.

"Call a kab" ?

By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 10, 13 5:20 AM
Another Monday and another ???

Google Maps shows traffic stopped at Lobster Inn.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 12, 13 8:39 AM