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What’s the hurry? Board stalls on St. Mary’s Road

A look at the ongoing monitoring of St. Mary’s Road traffic through the years

A look at the ongoing monitoring of St. Mary’s Road traffic through the years

Councilwoman Chris Lewis addressed her colleagues at Tuesday’s Town Board work session to “pull together a loose end.”

The issue was the concern of some St. Mary’s Road residents about unsafe traffic conditions.

Three weeks ago, Police Jim Read gave an extensive review of data collected on the street, but since then there has been silence from the board.

At the September 26 work session, Chief Read provided statistics on St. Mary’s Road from radar surveys and accident reports taken over the last several years. In 14 years, he reported, there have been 14 accidents on St. Mary’s Road. More current data showed that from September 2016 to September 2017, the department had radar checkpoints set up 104 times on St. Mary’s Road revealing, for example, that during an August weekend this year, 3,429 vehicles used St. Mary’s Road with 3,076 of them doing the speed limit of 35 mph or below.

On that weekend, the data showed 39 drivers using St. Mary’s Road were going 41 to 45 mph and 11 were higher than 45.

The chief, referring to statistics taken in 2000 on St. Mary’s Road, said efforts by his department are “ having an impact on speeding,” noting that 17 years ago 9.2 percent of vehicles were traveling more than 5 mph over the limit, but the August numbers show 2.1 percent were going 5 mph or more over the limit.

Pros and cons were discussed Tuesday on reducing the speed limit — which would have to be done through the New York State Department of Transportation — installing speed bumps, and narrowing portions of St. Mary’s Road to force drivers to slow down.

Councilman Jim Colligan suggested putting up a sign that flashed the speed of an approaching vehicle, noting it could be done on “an experimental basis” for a year and would cost somewhere between $4,000 and $5,000. Ms. Lewis sparked laughter with her comment that now, while the board is putting together a budget for next year, “might be a bad day to be throwing out figures like $5,000.”

Chief Read said his department had been proactive in reducing speed on the street through signage, monitoring and radar surveys and he “doesn’t see any burning need to do anything now.”

From the audience, Ron Jernick asked the board how many residents who live on St. Mary’s Road “have reached out” to the board.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty said, “Just two.”

“Actually, there was petition, Jim,” Ms. Lewis said. “That’s why we responded.”

Mr. Dougherty said he’s never seen a petition and asked Mr. Jernick if he was aware of one. Mr. Jernick said he had seen a petition but never signed it.

In July 2016, Karla Friedlich, representing residents of St. Mary’s Road, presented a petition to the board, signed, she said, by 40 people asking for an end to the use of their street as “St. Mary’s Speedway.”

Mr. Jernick said it was really only two residents out of 20 who live on the street who express concern about traffic and the Police Department found only 2 percent of drivers exceeding the speed limit by more than 5 mph.

The board, he added, should not have “a knee-jerk reaction” to what only a few see as a problem, and certainly shouldn’t spend money until it has contacted all residents of the neighborhood.

Mr. Dougherty said the discussion would be continued at a later date.

In other business: Because of a confusion of drafts given to the board, the Water Quality Improvement Projects Advisory board’s rules and regulations to advise and recommend to the Town Board funding opportunities to upgrade private and public septic systems — such as at Wades Beach and the American Legion Hall — will have to wait a week.

The Water Quality Board has access to about $440,000 for improvement projects, but must allocate the funds by the end of this year or it will revert to the Community Preservation Fund (CPF).

Money for the CPF comes from a 2 percent tax buyers pay when purchasing East End properties and is used to purchase open space for preservation. But towns are allowed to use up to 20 percent of CPF funds collected annually to fund water protection programs, and that fund is now at $440,000.

Board members expressed disappointment at the confusion over the draft of rules, and Greg Toner, a member of the Water Quality board, apologized for the confusion.

The issue will be taken up at next week’s work session.