Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi Friday, 27 January 2012 00:00
The Oyster Bay and East Norwich Civic Association’s traffic committee sent information to the media to alert the community about a DOT traffic calming suggestion. Rob Brusca, OBCA counsel made the announcement at their Thursday, Jan. 19 board meeting about the request from the NYS DOT to find out what the community input is on making Route 106 two single lanes going north and south with a center turning lane in the five-tenths of a mile stretch roughly in front of the Vernon School property. The DOT initially wanted an answer by Jan. 31, but Mr. Brusca said on Monday, Jan. 23, “The NYS DOT has extended the time by which they would like some further input – re: the proposed conversion of two southbound lanes to one lane- to the end of February. Potentially, the work on it could be done some time this summer, as I believe it would not be much more work than re-striping a half mile of roadway.”
The Enterprise-Pilot contacted East Norwich Fire Department Chief John DeBellis, on any impact on emergency response/service of the proposed change on the road. At the Oyster Bay Civic Association meeting on Jan. 19, longtime East Norwich resident Rosemary Colvin commented that the second lane was a truck lane needed for the oil trucks leaving what was the Commander Oil depot that is currently owned by Petro Oil. Mr. DeBellis responded giving his own opinion saying, “Please remember that this is my personal opinion and is not any official opinion of any organization that I belong to.”
East Norwich resident John DeBellis said, “My own opinion is that this is not a good idea. Yes, the reason for two lanes, is a slow lane on the right for trucks, if you take this away you will have major traffic slow downs at times and also Vernon school traffic will bring everything to a stop. I think this will lead to more accidents caused by people trying to pass in the so-called turning lane, and if there is no traffic at times during the day how would one lane make anyone drive slower?” [A designated right turn into Vernon for southbound taffic is already in the DOT proposed alteration.]
Mr. Brusca in his press release explained the history of their traffic calming work. He said, the letter that the Oyster Bay and East Norwich Civic Associations received from NYS DOT is in response to the two civic associations letter to them of September 2010, as well as to various other inquiries since that time. This is the second letter from DOT in the last two to three years or so; the first one was in response to the initial (and lengthy) inquiry on the part of the two civic associations seeking more and improved traffic signage, parking restrictions, improved sight lines, etc. throughout the Route106 corridor- from Northern Boulevard north into the Oyster Bay hamlet. The first letter and DOT’s response resulted in some changes and improvements. “Although in the current case they have not agreed to a lot of our suggestions, they have been very responsive and considerate of our many inquiries, and we have a good relationship with them that we can continue to build upon,” said Mr. Brusca.
He explained that the traffic calming work has been shared by the two civic boards with the help of committee members Bob Martin and Dr. Scott Cavagnuolo. Mr. Brusca said, “They have been tremendously helpful and diligent in all aspects of the outreach and follow up to DOT and with our various partners at the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District, Town, County, and State- with consistent support from Dr. Phyllis Harrington and Chris Van Cott of the School District; Bob Reilly at TOB; County Legislator Judy Jacobs; County reps. Brian Nugent, Christopher Mistron, Greg May; and Deputy County Executive Rob Walker; the Nassau County 2nd Precinct; NYS Senator Carl Marcellino, Assemblyman Mike Montesano, and Assemblyman Chuck Lavine.”
Mr. Brusca said, “The recent results include that the DOT is still looking at an issue of sight lines along 25A/Northern Blvd. from approximately Rothmann’s to Messina Market (it might result in some no parking areas or the expansion of existing parking areas). There are concerns about traffic exiting from Messina Market on the north side and for those exiting from Muttontown Lane on the south side of that roadway.”
Additionally, Mr. Brusca said, “The Vernon School zone beacons have been sent to a contractor, but there is no specific word on installation times for them (one in each direction of north and south traffic). We will likely seek similar beacons at Roosevelt and the high school, but those are not DOT roadways. [The town and county are the interested parties, it is believed.]”
Mr. Brusca also said, “Speed indicators along Route 106 remain a possibility, potentially the ‘box’ type that, ideally, would fit on the school zone beacon poles. We had previously asked DOT to design the poles with this potential in mind for later adding on to, but have not as yet secured any municipal monies for their addition. DOT does not install these devices, but will issue the requisite permit to third parties applying for their installation, usually a local municipality, such as the Town.”
Mr. Brusca listed the work already approved by the NYS DOT.
• Will trim trees in front of the East Norwich [Christina’s] Shopping Center that covers a merge sign for northbound traffic.
• Have already added/enlarged signage in Vernon School corridor re-speed limit and school crossing.
• Will coordinate the traffic signal in front of EN Firehouse with that in front of Vernon- likely providing some breathing room for vehicles leaving the local neighborhoods and driving along those spots.
• Will add a crosswalk across South Street in Oyster Bay between Bank of America and Oyster Bay Manor- where many seniors now cross between Orchard Street and Summit Street - together with applicable signage.
• Standing signage within any crosswalk that we see in other communities is to be obtained via a Town permit request to DOT.
• Will replace the lost - no left sign - as cars leave the Stop & Shop lot at the south end (prohibiting lefts into southbound lane about at edge of the Norwich Gate property). [There is a red light at the lower exit from Stop & Shop making it safer for left or right turns made there.]
Mr. Brusca said, DOT does think that reducing the Route 106 southbound lane from two lanes to one lane will have a positive impact on traffic-reducing speed and aggressive driving - but they want additional community and political input. He said, “Going back about 30 years, I guess, it had been one southbound lane. The maps at the end of the DOT letter show the proposed portion of roadway to be amended to one southbound lane, ‘IF’ done- from about the intersection with Sugar Toms Road to just past the EN Firehouse. The map indicates that it will be cut back at around Peerless Drive, but the second lane south to Sugar Toms is already (and would remain) a left turn lane onto Sugar Toms. In total, the stretch of roadway ‘POTENTIALLY’ to revert back to one southbound lane would be approximately five-tenths of a mile.”
Mr. Brusca said, “Over a year ago, when we first started communicating with DOT regarding the Civics’ letter of September 2010, they had advised us in conversations that, in their experience, signage and other mechanisms do little to change driving habits, but that they had in fact found physical alterations to roadways most beneficial in slowing traffic and reducing aggressive driving. Particularly, they had found success in reducing the number of driving lanes in other areas- mostly, I believe, in smaller communities similar to OB-EN. DOT has expressly stated that they believe it would reduce speed and aggressive driving in this location. At the bottom of page 5, they have stated:
“‘Our review showed one southbound lane on Route 106 could be removed and a two-way left turn lane added to improve the overall safety of this section without significantly impacting motorist delay. This modification will have a traffic calming effect, reduce the overall operating speed, reduce aggressive driving and provide a center left turn lane/dedicated left turn lanes in this corridor.’”
Mr. Brusca wanted the public to know, “Neither Civic Association has adopted or voted on this. When raised by DOT a while back as a potential better way of slowing traffic, etc., Bob Martin, Dr. Scott, myself, and others had discussed that this might be the very best way of accomplishing the ultimate goal of securing slower and less aggressive traffic in this troublesome spot. As we continued to communicate with DOT regarding the Civics’ various written inquiries and suggestions, we continued to urge them to study the one-lane option. DOT has asked for input from the community and others by the end of January, but, having just gotten the letter within the last week, we intend to ask for an extension to the end of February or so to get them additional information, etc.” [This was successfully done as noted above.]
Mr. Brusca summarized the project saying, that the potential downside in the change of anything is understandable. He said, “The project is intended to slow traffic down. In slowing down the speed of vehicles- to a point whereby we would hope that drivers would actually then be in compliance with the existing speed limit – 30 MPH in the school zone during school hours; 40 MPH all other times- it will likely cause some back up of vehicles that would otherwise be passing each other in the second/left lane of southbound traffic currently. However, in my personal view, for an additional few minutes added to the southbound trip along that five-tenths of a mile alteration, I believe it will have a substantial net benefit in safety to the community.”
Other Facts to Consider: Mr. Brusca added a few facts about the corridor.
The very same one lane of southbound traffic already exists currently from downtown Oyster Bay up to Sugar Toms Road in East Norwich.
The very same one lane of traffic suggested for this stretch of roadway in the southbound direction already exists in the one lane of “northbound” traffic that the very same drivers travel- primarily upon the return to the OB-EN community in the late afternoon/early evening.
Mr. Brusca said in his opinion, “This suggested alteration of the roadway will apply to approximately five-tenths of a mile of roadway, but is directly in front of the Vernon School and sandwiched by residential neighborhoods in all directions. If any area calls for the slowing of traffic, less aggressive driving, and a safer roadway, this area certainly does, in my opinion (full disclosure – I now reside in the Radcliff neighborhood to the west of this proposed change.)”
He added, “ I don’t think this is the ideal manner of viewing it, but, if it did prove to be more of a detriment than a benefit to the community, it could seemingly easily be reversed and returned to two lanes of southbound traffic as currently exists by DOT picking up the center striping of the proposed middle turning lane and going back to two southbound lanes.”
Two members of the community responded to Mr. Brusca’s email blast.
Laura McCue of East Norwich said, “I am very much in favor of going into one lane. Since I and my family live on Route 106, we are worried every day about the traffic. The cars fly up 106, my house shakes, and there have been plenty of accidents right near my house. Years ago my grandmother was hit, turning into her house, which is now mine and she wound up on the front lawn. I would rather have safety than a little inconvenience.
“And not to mention the cars coming up the hill, and going through the red light. Something bad is going to happen at the crosswalk one day. Rob, I will help you in anyway I can,” she said.
Michele Browner, as a Vernon parent, had a differing view. She said, “I do understand the need for less aggressive driving in that area, however I wait in a line of cars each a.m. coming down Peerless Drive, to make the left on 106 headed to Vernon. Truth be told….almost all of us are forced to make the left into the non-driving grid before it opens to two lanes, as the line of cars in both directions limits opportunities to turn left into traffic. We often wish they would extend the second turning lane to include Peerless Drive.
“We school parents have less than a ten-minute window (doors open at 8:15 a.m., kids must be in their seats by 8:25 a.m.) to get our children to school. The drop off line of cars for the Vernon loop is often absurd, spilling down 106, as there is no right on red into the school lot. We back up quite a few cars, and I am certain the non-school drivers are relieved they don’t have to wait in the right lane as we slowly inch around the loop.
“Do consider this prior to moving that piece forward. Vernon parents would be crazed!” said Ms. Browner.
She had a suggestion though. Ms. Browner said, “Unless of course the district reduced their bus limits from 1 mile to ½ mile and less parents would be forced to drive their children to school…
“I, for one, have never and will never receive a bus to any of the three schools as my home sits in the unpopular epicenter of the 1-mile radius overlaps. [For her that means] 13 years per child of driving two kids every day both ways to two different schools.”
“It’s just my opinion,” added Ms. Browner.
At the OBCA meeting on Jan. 19, Rosemary Colvin of East Norwich remembered that the second lane was added to the Vernon hill to allow Commander Oil trucks to get up the road, which took them more time then, and to allow other cars to use the other lane for passing them by. As the Enterprise-Pilot went to press we were not able to contact Petro Oil which handles the former Commander Oil loading dock on Oyster Bay Harbor to get their opinion of the proposed change.
If readers have any comments on the proposal, letters to the editor are welcome; you can also call the Oyster Bay Civic Association at obca.net; or call OBCA President Bill Von Novak or the East Norwich Civic Association at eastnorwich.org or call ENCA President Matt Meng at 606-8053.
The discussion at the Jan. 19 meeting of the OBCA was about membership and the mission of the group. The mission is to help in issues such as this – which often creates a welcome surge in membership. The ENCA meets next on Thursday, Jan. 26 at the Community Methodist Church of East Norwich. All are welcome to attend.