After 11 reported motor vehicle accidents over the past three years, including one fatality in 2011, Suffolk County installed a traffic light at the intersection of Canoe Place Road and Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays late last month.
While those who live and work in the area near the new signal agree that it has made the intersection safer, particularly for those looking to turn left from Canoe Place onto westbound Montauk Highway, some feel that safety has come at the expense of increased traffic congestion.
The light was installed on May 21 and is now fully operational.
Justin McGhee, manager of Brewster’s Seafood Market, located on southeast corner of the intersection, said this week that the traffic light is “terrible,” as it causes extended back-ups along Canoe Place Road in the morning, making it difficult to get to work from his home on Penny Lane.
While his market will not open for the season for another week or so, Mr. McGhee said it is possible that the increased traffic could deter people from coming to his store. “It might impact business, as people have to wait all the way up,” he said. “The people coming from the beach just might end up hanging a left and going into town rather than waiting.”
But Kerianne Cherney, who works at East End Jet Ski on Canoe Place Road, located a few hundred yards south of the intersection, said the light has had the opposite effect. “It’s reduced the amount of traffic,” she said. “On busy days, it would back up all the way to here if someone was too scared to go.
“I vote yes,” she added.
Since January 1, 2011, 11 accidents have been reported at the intersection, according to Southampton Town Police Sergeant Susan Ralph. One of those was a fatal crash in which 84-year-old Jeanette Kelly of Palm Beach, Florida, was broadsided by a van as she attempted to turn left onto Montauk Highway on October 4, 2011, according to police records.
A 2008 Southampton Town study focusing on Montauk Highway reported 31 accidents at the intersection between December 18, 2003, and December 18, 2006, eight of which resulted in injury.
Deputy Southampton Town Supervisor Frank Zappone said the town has been petitioning Suffolk County to install a light at the intersection “for the better part of the past year or so,” adding that the county had to conduct its traffic study prior to installing the light.
“The light is in place now, so they moved relatively quickly,” Mr. Zappone said. “Which is good because there were some rather unfortunate accidents there.”
The traffic light and study, the latter of which was requested by Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Southampton Town officials, cost $80,000 combined, according to Suffolk County spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter.
Ms. Baird-Streeter also noted that the increase in traffic congestion on Canoe Place Road likely is a byproduct of the adjustment period for drivers who are still getting used to the new signal. “Putting up a traffic signal can only ensure that it’s safer to traverse the highway,” she said on Thursday afternoon, June 5.
Robin Blydenburgh, who works at the Shell gas station opposite Brewster’s, said that, prior to the light’s installation, she always avoided the intersection because of the risk. “I would never make that left-hand turn without the light—I always went that way,” she said, indicating that she would drive south on Canoe Place Road and take the back roads to head west.
Canoe Place Road resident Santiago Giraldo said he has noticed an uptick in traffic since the light was installed last month, noting that it has become difficult to pull out onto the street during the morning rush hour.
Still, Mr. Giraldo said the extra wait is worth the additional safety. “It does cause some traffic in the morning, but we’ll deal with it,” he said.