By Kathryn G. Menu; images courtesy of Serve Sag Harbor
Sag Harbor officials appear ready to move forward with a pilot program to calm traffic at key intersections throughout the village.
The pilot program could be launched as soon as June of this year, said Mayor Brian Gilbride, following a presentation Tuesday night by the non-profit Serve Sag Harbor. The group wants to focus on passive ways the village can reduce the speed of vehicles and make its streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
Serve Sag Harbor, and its sister non-profit Save Sag Harbor, have been working with Michael King of Nelson/Nygaard and Jonas Hagen, a Sag Harbor resident in the doctoral program in urban planning at Columbia University, on traffic calming solutions for the village since last October. With the village board’s approval, the organizations created an ad-hoc committee including Trustee Robby Stein to discuss the issue, with Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano and Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley tapped by the group for their input.
“This really all comes out of the idea of safety,” said John Shaka of Save Sag Harbor at Tuesday’s village board meeting. Mr. Shaka went on to describe several traffic related fatalities and a handful of non-fatal accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists in East Hampton and Southampton towns since 2012.
“I am here to tell you, I was shaken up by this—we were shaken up by this,” said Mr. Shaka.
Mr. King noted vehicle speed literally is the difference between the severity of a traffic accident involving pedestrians or cyclists.
“If I get hit by someone driving 20 mph, the chances of me surviving is really, really good,” he said. “If I get hit by a car going 40, my chances of dying are really, really good.”
The organizations have tasked Mr. King and Mr. Hagen with planning for traffic calming solutions at a total of 19 intersections throughout the village. The pilot phase would involve the repainting of roadways, extending sidewalks, and strategically placing planters and garden beds. On Tuesday, Mr. King showed the board a handful of examples.
The village board looked at options at Main and Union streets in front of the John Jermain Memorial Library and the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum, as well as improvements at the intersections of Main and Glover streets, Main and John streets, Jermain Avenue and Madison Street, Jermain Avenue and Suffolk Street and Jermain and Oakland avenues.
Some intersections, noted Mr. King, involve large scale plans, while others are more simple. He suggested the trustees consider tackling two small intersections, and two complex intersections, in the first phase of the program in order to track the effectiveness of the traffic-calming solutions.
At Main and Union streets in front of the library, Mr. King has proposed the village bump out the sidewalk on all four sides of the intersection to increase public space, which could be lined with planters. Mr. King’s proposal also calls for four crosswalks to be painted—two on Main Street, one on Garden Street and one on Union Street—as a part of the plan and that Main Street be painted a different color at this intersection to create a plaza-like feel that will slow vehicles down.
At most of the remaining intersections, repainted crosswalks, small sidewalk bump-outs lined with planters, and small plazas in the middle of roads just before intersections entail most of the traffic calming improvements. The intersection of Jermain Avenue and Suffolk Street represents a more complex proposal, including a large interior plaza breaking up the roadway, and four crosswalks to ease pedestrian travel. In front of Pierson Middle-High School sidewalk extensions are also proposed as is the creation of a plaza-like road on Jermain Avenue to slow traffic.
“What I recommend always is pilot programs,” said Mr. King. “If you like it, you can get some more money and make it better. If you don’t like it, you can take it out.”
Serve Sag Harbor board member Susan Mead said the organization would like to work hand-in-hand with the village to select four intersections to focus on as a part of the pilot program.
“Let’s pick two or four intersections, get some costs and then let the public see how they work,” said Mayor Gilbride.
“I think we will all work together to at least get some pilot projects started,” he added, saying that to measure the success of the improvements they should be completed prior to the busy summer season.
“The chief and Dee [Yardley] have to be involved in this 100 percent,” said Mayor Gilbride. “We have a couple months.”
Sag Harbor Fire Department First Assistant Chief James Frazier said it appears some of the intersection improvements block access to fire hydrants. Mayor Gilbride suggested the department attend the next traffic calming meeting to discuss that that issue.
In other village news, the board held a public hearing and adopted a new law establishing a board of ethics to implement the code of ethics written into the village code in 2009. According to village attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr., while the village complied with state law by writing the code of ethics, it never established the ethics board, which will consist of three members to be appointed by the village board of trustees.
Trustee Robby Stein suggested the board look into installing attendant parking at the former National Grid gas ball site, located on Bridge Street and Long Island Avenue. The village current leases that property from the utility and uses it for parking. Mr. Stein said with attendant parking, the village could potentially see an additional 60 parking spaces in that lot.
“Where I am is there are companies that do this professionally and we know we have a parking problem in the village,” he said, suggesting the board invite some private firms to present the board with options.