Springs School Officials Share Preliminary Safe Routes Plans

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A 50-foot diagonal crosswalk leads pedestrians across Springs-Fireplace Road from School Street to Gardiner Avenue—and it is dangerous.

Street signs, meant to slow down traffic, have been pushed to the very ends of the crosswalk, or even cast off to the grass. Pedestrians have to quickly cross so as not to get hit, and often vehicles get too close before they realize someone is in the street.

Springs School President Elizabeth Mendelman said many of their students have to cross that sidewalk to get to school every day. And during arrival and dismissal times, cars back up on School Street, Old Stone Highway and Gardiner Avenue.

Now, East Hampton Town and the Springs School is set to fix the problem with $554,000 in federal grant money it was awarded in January 2013. The Springs School Board and East Hampton Town officials, in the summer of 2012, began championing for assistance from the National Safe Routes to School Program, which was launched by Congress in 2005. The State Department of Transportation administers the program in New York.

The School Board and the East Hampton Town Board, by sending out a request for proposals, has selected an engineering firm, Melville-based RBA, to design the project and guide them through the process. Once the town retains RBA, the project can begin.

Ms. Mendelman said RBA has a lot of experience dealing with the federal aid process, traffic calming and roadway design. RBA has completed other Safe Routes programs on Long Island and in Riverhead and Centereach, as well as a traffic calming project in Sag Harbor and a roundabout in North Haven.

In its preliminary report outlining solutions for a traffic issue at the three-way intersection in Springs, RBA found that expansive pavement, poor sight lines, a lack of visual cues or signs, and a radius that is conducive to speeding are all part of the problem. There is also an absence of sidewalks, including ADA-compliant sidewalks, on Springs-Fireplace Road.

RBA plans to fix those issues by removing the diagonal crosswalk and replacing it with a crosswalk going across Gardiner Avenue and another going across Springs-Fireplace Road, as well as installing rapid flashing beacons to alert drivers that there is a crosswalk, sidewalks with buffers and curb extensions to create a safer walk, in-street signs, Hi-Viz crosswalks featuring reflective paint, and driver feedback devices telling drivers how fast they are driving.

The intersection also floods heavily when it rains and the Accabonac tide rises, Ms. Mendelman said. To address the flooding issue, RBA also proposes better drainage there.

Additionally, East Hampton Town and the school are requesting a new 1,805-foot sidewalk along the western side of Springs-Fireplace Road, from Woodbine Drive to Gardiner Avenue. They also want to reduce the speed limit from 40 mph to 30 mph between Abraham’s Path and Harbor Boulevard, and reduce the speed 250 feet north of Copeces Lane on Three Mile Harbor-Hog Creek Road from 35 mph to 30 mph. The board is also requesting six speed monitoring devices to be placed within a two-mile radius from the school to collect data and help the East Hampton Town Police Department better patrol the area.

According to Police Chief Michael Sarlo, the hope is that by making the area safer and providing the many families who live north of Springs-Fireplace Road a more secure crossing point, the number of kids walking and biking will increase.

“New sidewalks and better sight lines, along with added speed monitoring, should be a big improvement,” he said this week. “Additionally, with the planned improvements in parking on Springs School property, hopefully, the traffic, parking and safety will all accommodate the growth the Springs School has been experiencing.”

The Springs School formed a Safe Routes to School Team in 2012 to find the hazards schoolchildren face on their way to and from school, document driver patterns and behaviors, and find solutions by working with town officials. Based on numbers collected from 2012, almost 300 students lived off Springs-Fireplace Road within a two-mile walking distance to the school. Approximately 130 of them lived under a mile of the school.

More than 100 students could walk or ride their bikes to school using a sidewalk, and nearly 100 students had to cross Springs-Fireplace Road. Approximately 73 students had to cross the diagonal crosswalk to School Street.

Three crosswalks—at Copeces Lane, Harbor Boulevard and Woodbine Drive—are not guarded, while the Gardiner Avenue crosswalk is guarded during arrival and dismissal times.

Ms. Mendelman said the school is planning to hold training sessions for its students on walking and biking to school safely. The school is considering holding a community information session about making it safer to walk to school. The PTA will also sponsor “walking buses” and “bike trains,” where parents walk students to and from school along the same route that a school bus would drive them to school, with a fixed route and designated stops and pickup times.

The school district plans on taking another tally of how many students are walking and biking before and after construction, Ms. Mendelman said. She said she suspects the project, which could be completed before the fall of 2015, will not only make it safer for the students and the public, it will get a number of cars off the road.

“If we do this project, we could get many kids walking to school,” she said. “In Springs, there’s not one solution to fix the congestion problem. But walking and carpooling will be a benefit for the community.”

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