The executive director of the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton is taking a stand over what she says is a dangerous crosswalk on the hamlet’s Main Street.
The crosswalk, which is approximately 150 feet west of the intersection of Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, has been the site of several near-accidents in recent years, according to Kelly Harris, the library’s executive director. Ms. Harris said cars have stopped mere inches away from pedestrians or zoomed past them without slowing down, and that it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed.
Ms. Harris said this week that often she watches patrons get stuck trying to cross the street for library events and is afraid for their safety.
In a proactive move, she has begun soliciting letters from concerned residents to send to East End politicians, Southampton Town officials and the New York State Department of Transportation requesting that a change, such as moving the crosswalk, be made. Ms. Harris is accepting the letters at the library and has discussed the topic with library patrons and other residents as well as members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee.
According to Ms. Harris, the letter-writing campaign follows a series of requests, both from the library and from the CAC, to the State Department of Transportation to improve the situation.
“We received a letter from the Department of Transportation stating that there have been no pedestrian accidents at the location during the past five years, so it is not a problem,” Ms. Harris said this week of a letter she received on June 21 from Frank Pearson, the regional traffic engineer for the DOT. “But why does someone have to get killed for something to be done about it?”
Eileen Peters, the DOT’s public information officer for this region, said Tuesday, “We did receive a request to look into the crosswalk across from the library and as a result we conducted an investigation that included accident data, on-site field observations and a review of all existing signs.”
However, she said, “we did not find any safety concerns and no pedestrian-related accidents and believe the crosswalk is sufficient at this time.”
According to Ms. Harris, there are several problems with the current crosswalk. Often, she said, pedestrians cannot even get into the crosswalk because drivers don’t stop, perhaps because they don’t see the pedestrians or are rushing to get through the traffic light.
Ms. Harris is proposing that more signs be installed leading up to the area alerting drivers to be on the lookout for pedestrians and give them the chance to cross the street.
The second problem arises once a pedestrian is in the walk itself. Motorists, she said, do not see the walkers until they are right in front of them, causing them to slam their on their brakes. Sometimes parked cars block pedestrians from sight.
In other instances, she said, the driver stops safely, but the driver behind—thinking the one in front is attempting a left turn into an adjacent municipal parking lot —will try to go around the driver, nearly striking the pedestrian.
This week, Thomas Neely, the director of public transportation and traffic safety for Southampton Town, said the crosswalk has been a topic of concern in Bridgehampton for several years, and noted that the town is looking into ways to make the area safer for both pedestrians and cars. Mr. Neely said in April he did a walk-through of the entire hamlet with a representative from the department of transportation.
He said pedestrian-crossing signs have been replaced with brighter ones, and that several options—including moving the crosswalk or providing better lighting—are being considered. He added that although the road is under state jurisdiction, the town can apply for specific action to be taken.
“I know that people are still concerned,” he said. “We are trying to see what else can be done at this point.”
For now, Ms. Harris said the library will continue collecting letters, which be sent together to the offices of State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, among others. She hopes to send the packet within the next few weeks.
“This crosswalk has always been a problem,” she said. “We are going to make the politicians aware of what has transpired. Ultimately, we are stuck, and I hope we don’t have to wait for someone to get hit in the crosswalk for something to get done.”