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Jan 26, 2016 4:05 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Southampton Town To Revisit Flashing Yellow Light Program On County Road 39

Southampton Town officials are revisiting a plan to impose blinking yellow lights at the intersection of Tuckahoe Road and County Road 39 this spring to help alleviate traffic during the morning commute. ALYSSA MELILLO
Jan 26, 2016 4:05 PM

Southampton Town officials may revive a plan to use a temporary flashing yellow traffic light at the intersection of County Road 39 and Tuckahoe Road in Shinnecock Hills to clear traffic backups that plague the stretch much of the year.

The idea was first pitched in May of last year by former Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and then-County Legislator Jay Schneiderman as a way to alleviate vehicle congestion during the morning commute. Traffic cones and police officers would be used at intersections to limit turns during the rush hour period, allowing east-west traffic to flow more or less unimpeded.

A trial had been approved by Suffolk County Chief Engineer Bill Hillman, but it was shelved in July because it was too difficult to get a County Department of Public Works crew to provide traffic cones and supervise the program with Southampton Town Police.

“I think we all agreed last year that it was a little late in the season to do it,” said Tom Neely, Southampton Town’s director of public transportation and traffic safety.

Now, as town supervisor, Mr. Schneiderman said he would like to follow through with testing the program this spring, saying this week that he is trying to get cooperation from the county to conduct a three-day trial during the workweek in mid-April.

The trial would take place from 6 to 8 a.m. each day to focus on the traffic heading east, and would involve a traffic cone setup to permit right turns only. Drivers would not be allowed make left turns from Tuckahoe Road in either direction, or to cross straight over County Road 39 north or south on Tuckahoe Road, the supervisor said.

“The reason why you blink a light is to test what happens if you eliminate a traffic pattern,” he explained on Tuesday.

Mr. Schneiderman added that prior to the trial, the town will collect data on how long it currently takes to travel through that corridor, so that after the flashing yellow light is tested, the results can be compared. “If it reduces commuting time by 20 minutes or so, that would be relatively successful,” he said.

If that turns out to be the case, Mr. Schneiderman said he would work with the county to develop a long-term solution to direct traffic in that area. That long-term vision, he said, could include even ambitious options like the construction of an overpass or an underpass at the intersection.

It is an idea he described as “potentially important” for a few reasons. He said he hopes to build up the Stony Brook Southampton campus, to which Southampton Hospital also plans to relocate in the future, and to reopen the Long Island Rail Road station that used to be located there, especially because the U.S. Open Championship is slated to take place at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, just across County Road 39 from the station, in 2018.

“I won’t say it’s complicated, but it’s involved,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “There are a lot of things to think about. But it’s a complicated crossing.”

The project last year also included the intersection at County Road 39 and Magee Street, but Mr. Schneiderman said he is not looking to test the flashing yellow light there just yet because of complications that would arise with school buses heading to and from the Tuckahoe School, located on Magee Street. “I’d like to try blinking the one at Magee,” he said, adding, “I think right now we’re focused mostly on the light at the college.”

Those two intersections already have two of the longest green lights in the county, holding for as long as four minutes for eastbound and westbound traffic during rush hour periods. In the spring of 2013, after long backups led to many frustrated commuters, the county extended the green cycle of the lights from 125 seconds to 240 seconds. The lights do not turn red unless a car stops at the cross-street intersections.

The blinking traffic light was a topic of discussion at a Tuckahoe School Board meeting on Monday night, as Mr. Neely has already reached out to school officials to see if they would support a flashing yellow light at Magee Street. While Chairman Dr. Daniel Crough and Trustee Bob Grisnik agreed that it would be difficult for buses to travel north and south on Magee Street with a blinking light in place, they said they would like Mr. Neely to present the idea to the three-member board in person before they give him an answer.

Trustee Sean Hattrick, however, did not hesitate to offer his thoughts on the program: “It’s a disaster.”

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Good. Let's take an idea that was first supposed to be tested 8 months ago, test it in 3 months from now, likely have it delayed due to "staffing issues", "budgetary constraints", "PBA grievances" and "cone shortages", and then scrap it again until 2017.

I'm sure the membership at Shinnecock won't take issue with not being able to make left turns to make their 7 am tee time right?? It's not like any of them have money to throw around for their needs.
By Mouthampton (439), Southampton on Jan 27, 16 9:18 AM
What about the TAXPAYERS who live in the area who will be negatively impacted? Why is the Town bending over backwards to make life easier for contractors commuting from UTI?
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jan 27, 16 11:31 AM
2 members liked this comment
Rather than just act to speed up traffic, how about safety as the town’s first priority?
There are no left turn arrows until Sandy Hollow and that is no help to people who live off Sebonac Road.
End to end rumble strips and improved lane striping would make CR-39 safer.
Make all of CR-39 an enhanced enforcement zone, like construction sites and double fines and points.
Resident Lives matter! Especially our young drivers.
By TheTurtle (143), Southampton on Jan 27, 16 4:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
I don't see this working. The backup starts at the water mill light at station Rd. This is where it needs to have more passage. Pushing traffic volume through tuckahoe Rd simply fills the funnel that much faster.
By Hamptonized (6), Southampton on Jan 27, 16 9:06 PM
An absolute disaster. Now traffic will roll from one end of CR-39 to the other, unimpeded, at an average speed of 70 miles an hour. CR-39 = Death trap.
By BillWillConn3 (180), Southampton on Jan 27, 16 10:23 PM
Flashing light at Tuckahoe Rd & Magee St? Are they crazy? How on earth would anyone who lives north of Cty Rd 39 get across into the village?
By tuckahoemom (19), Southampton on Feb 1, 16 9:45 PM