After two serious car accidents involving a black oak on Jermain Avenue led Sag Harbor Village officials to level the historic tree this fall, some village residents cried foul, pointing instead to what they perceived as a dangerous roadway prone to speeding drivers and a need for traffic calming improvements.
While many may think drivers routinely tear up Jermain Avenue, t he truth appears to be somewhat tamer. A study completed at the request of Sag Harbor Village Mayor Greg Ferraris by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) shows that drivers are, on average, traveling fairly close to the speed limit.
Between Wednesday, October 22 and Thursday, October 30 the NYSDOT conducted a speed count study on the section of Jermain Avenue between Joel’s Lane and Madison Street. The study was meant to target specifically the part of Jermain Avenue where the historic oak once stood, in order to try and determine whether cars generally sped over the 25 miles-per-hour speed limit posted on the road.
Driving westbound on the roadway, the NYSDOT clocked an average speed of 28.6 miles per hour, while eastbound travel showed a slower average speed of 21 miles-per-hour. In both directions, not a single car drove over 45 miles per hour.
“Was it surprising to me? I wouldn’t say so,” said Ferraris on Wednesday. “The statistics depict what the reality is. A lot of times, when people become emotional about an issue, things like this can get exaggerated, which I can understand. I have witnessed people speeding on that road, as have many people in the village, but what this shows is it is obviously not as rampant as some would think.”
However, the village still intends to explore the possibility of traffic calming projects on Jermain Avenue, he added, despite the study. Ferraris said a contiguous sidewalk from the schools to Mashashimuet Park was a priority, and that he and village clerk Sandra Schroeder had already met with a representative from a leading traffic consulting firm on Long Island to discuss the village’s other needs on Jermain and possible solutions.
“Most of this would have to go out for bid, if it is approved by the public,” noted Ferraris. “The concept has been well-received by the public, but there needs to be a clear consensus for us to move forward with these projects.”
Traffic calming on Jermain Avenue was first discussed last year as a part of Safe Routes to School, a federally funded program implemented at the state level that provided matching grants for traffic calming improvements in an effort to encourage students walking and biking to school. The village, which did not have the budgeted monies up front to apply for the program on its own, had sought the aid of the Town of Southampton, which while originally supportive, eventually pulled out due to jurisdictional issues.
However, during the village’s exploration of the program it did have a traffic study completed, outlining a number of suggestions by the state DOT should the Safe Routes to School program move forward in Sag Harbor. The village still has the study as a resource, although on Wednesday, Ferraris noted the some-million dollars in improvements may not be necessary in order for the village to achieve its goals. In fact, after the preliminary meeting with the traffic engineer, he said there are a number of affordable improvements that can go a long way towards increasing safety on Jermain Avenue.
“You can look at the project from two ends – signing and re-striping of intersections and improving and promoting pedestrian walkways to the other end where we are looking at reconstruction and re-engineering with ideas like raised crosswalks,” said Ferraris. “I was very pleased in speaking with the consultant that in his mind he would like to see what we need accomplished in the most cost effective manner. He said often those measures are in fact the most effective.”
What will likely not be cost effective is the contiguous sidewalk, but Ferraris said he was committed to the idea, although the village will have to explore how it can logistically accomplish the goal without breaking the bank.
“But anything is better than what we have right now,” he said.