Southampton Village Resident Asks Board Members To Slow Cars On Hill Street

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A Hill Street resident has asked the Southampton Village Board to look at ways to slow traffic along one of the major arteries leading into the village.

Rob Coburn presented his suggestions on how traffic can be slowed along Hill Street to board members on Thursday night, November 9, saying the road presents both traffic and safety issues.

After the presentation, Mayor Michael Irving asked Village Board Member Bill Hattrick to speak with Gary Goleski, the village’s superintendent of public works, to see if any of Mr. Coburn’s ideas can be implemented. Mr. Irving specifically focused on one proposal: more signs to warn drivers that the speed limit along Hill Street is 25 mph.

“We definitely need to look at it,” Mr. Irving said. “Traffic in this village is getting so bad that it’s really time to address it.”

Specifically, Mr. Coburn pointed to an accident in February, in which a woman died and another was critically injured.

Witnesses said they saw Jacob Alegria, 27, of Southampton driving west at three times the posted speed limit of 25 mph on Hill Street, moving into the oncoming lane while passing cars, when he slammed into a luxury SUV that had just turned into the eastbound lane from a side street.

The crash on the afternoon of February 1 killed 20-year-old Charlotte Meyer of Germany, who was a passenger in the eastbound vehicle. The driver of the vehicle, Luisa “Lulu” S. Keszler of Southampton, who was 26 at the time, was thrown nearly 30 yards from the vehicle. She was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of her injuries.

Mr. Alegria was charged in April with manslaughter and second-degree assault, both felonies, as well as misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment and reckless driving. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in a state prison on the most serious charge. His case could go to trial as early as December 12, when he is expected to be back in court.

“It’s important not to let the memory of that event fade,” Mr. Coburn told Village Board members at last week’s meeting.

He said he reached out to more than 100 residents along Hill Street and found that they share the same concerns with him about the speed that cars travel along that road, and they want to see action.

Mr. Coburn, who is not a traffic engineer, also did a field review and looked at ways the village can slow people down along Hill Street, as well as along six of Southampton’s other main arteries, including North Sea Road, Hampton Road and Wickapogue Road.

Mr. Coburn suggested that the village come up with a master plan to improve traffic safety by implementing concepts that make it easier for drivers to understand the traffic laws within village boundaries.

For example, he suggested speed limit signs every quarter of a mile along those key roads within the village. He also suggested new village welcome signs noting the enforcement of speed and traffic laws, and speed indicator signs as people drive into the village.

Mr. Coburn also asked the board to look into the addition of paved crosswalks at major intersections, suggesting that as people approach the crosswalks in their vehicles, the crosswalks would stand out to motorists, and they would slow down.

His other suggestions included painting bike lanes and parking spots along Hill Street, adding flashers in both directions in school zones, and utilizing rumble strips, speed bumps and medians—and maybe adding a few stop signs, though he said that should be a last resort.

“If we set the right tone on those roads, I think it will set the right tone in the village,” Mr. Coburn said.

Village Trustee Richard Yastrzemski said he liked a lot of his ideas, though not the idea of more stop signs.

“It’s all about visually reducing the size of the road,” Mr. Yastrzemski said.

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