Southampton Village Board members have vowed to meet with other East End officials to work on a plan to address traffic congestion in the village when emergencies force the closing of County Road 39.
The board’s discussion at a meeting last Thursday, August 8, followed a July 25 crash on County Road 39 west of the village, the main artery for the East End. The collision killed a woman and closed the road in both directions for more than nine hours as detectives and state officials reconstructed the accident and waited for the county medical examiner to arrive. As a result, traffic congestion was reported throughout the region for hours, even after the crash was cleared.
Suggestions from board members included reviewing state and local policies involving commercial vehicles in accidents, determining who is and is not authorized to move a body from the scene of an accident, and having traffic control officers at key intersections of the village routing traffic.
“It would seem to me that we need to come up with a plan where every one of the people who is integral to clearing the scene of an accident should have to be on scene within an hour and a half,” board member Bill Hattrick said during the meeting. “This business of taking nine or 10 hours to clear a scene is atrocious.”
According to Southampton Village Police Chief Thomas Cummings, who was present at the village meeting on August 8, there is little the Village Police could do to aid traffic flow following the accident. During the meeting, Chief Cummings said during the morning he had police officers attempting to direct traffic at busier intersections, but that they were being heckled and verbally assaulted by drivers who were ignoring instructions anyway. Eventually, he said, it was useless for them to be out.
Chief Cummings also added that specifically designated traffic control officers typically do not start until 10 a.m.—and, in the event of the most recent crash, were stuck in the same traffic as everyone else.
While Village Trustees did not have a better solution for routing traffic in the village, they agreed to organize a meeting with Southampton Town, Suffolk County and state officials for the near future to discuss potential options moving forward.