Signs get crossed regarding traffic signal
By Whitney Joseph - Editor
PINE PLAINS — The question of whether a walk/don’t walk sign should be installed at the intersection of routes 82 and 199 has become a hot button issue in the town of Pine Plains, with the Town Board and many residents against the idea, and the state Department of Transportation (DOT) eager to follow through on the project.
“I was just struck by how little traffic there seems to be at that intersection and why someone could not cross with just the traffic signal without an issue,” resident Bill Abrams said. (Abrams writes the weekly “The Country Curmudgeon” column for The Millerton News.)
The DOT wants to install the flashing sign to help pedestrians safely cross at the main intersection in town; it also wants to commandeer part of the town park for a cut out for a large part of the sign’s installation — something town Councilman George Keeler is dead set against.
“They have to take a piece of the town’s property because they don’t have a part to put the stand in,” he said. “And being frigin’ New York state they can do whatever the hell they damn well please. It all goes back to common sense and they’re not utilizing it, believe me.”
The idea, while unpopular, is not new. It was first proposed by the DOT in the summer of 2009, when the town received a letter stating it wanted to take a look at the intersection. Following that visit there were talks about the matter, and then, for reasons unknown, the issue slid to the back burner. It just recently revived, and the Town Board, for one, is not happy.
“It’s a needless project,” Keeler said. “For one thing, the section by the Stissing House doesn’t have any sidewalks. They say they want to put in 10 feet of sidewalks there, but it’s worthless because it won’t go anywhere.”
But according to DOT Project Engineer Mark Kruk, the state determined the outdated traffic light needed to be replaced a few years ago and that adding the walk/don’t walk sign would make the intersection that much safer.
“Every time we visit an intersection we look to improve the safety and mobility of the intersection,” he said.
But the proposed plans aren’t the only reason why there’s been opposition to the idea. Another concern is the cost. According to Kruk, the price tag for the project is $150,000; it will be paid for by a state-dedicated fund. Keeler said considering those dollars will ultimately come out of taxpayers’ pockets, it’s too much to spend on a needless project.
“The state is broke, and it’s been broke, there are billions of dollars in deficits,” he said. “There are much more worthy projects than this.”
He listed many: a number of roads in the town need to be repaved; potholes (which Keeler described as “craters”) need to be repaired; there are drainage issues in the center of town that need to be addressed; and dead trees along the roadways must be cut down and removed.
“Those problems fall on deaf ears,” the councilman said. “People get fixated on something in particular and they’re going to do it, come hell or high water.”
Karen Pineda, secretary to the town supervisor, said she, too, thinks the project is senseless.
“I really don’t like the idea,” she said. “We don’t want to look like a congested town that requires people to stand on the corner waiting to cross. I think a red/green light is more than enough. I do believe they need it in places like Red Hook and Rhinebeck, where they do have heavy traffic flow, but we don’t have that kind of traffic here. If there were a lot of accidents with people getting hit by cars I could understand it, but there aren’t.”
Abrams agreed, and had another low-cost solution to suggest.
“I thought if they were worried they could make the entire intersection no right on red, and that would take care of anybody getting hit while crossing with the green light,” he said. “That’s the only danger, that you might step off the curb and somebody is so anxious to make a right turn down Route 82 and run afoul that way. It seems to me a sign would be a lot cheaper.”
Abrams was so incensed by the proposal he wrote a letter to the DOT protesting the idea; he copied it to Assemblyman Marcus Molinaro. Keeler is hoping others might do the same.
“I just want people to be aware ... and they can contact Molinaro to voice their opinions,” he said.
To do so one can send a letter to Assemblyman Marcus Molinaro, 7578 North Broadway, Suite 4, Red Hook, NY 12571. Letters may also be sent to the DOT, attention Mark Kruk, NYS Department of Transportation, 4 Burnett Blvd., Poughkeepsie, NY 12603. Additionally, the Town Board may be contacted at Town Hall at 518-398-7155 or letters may be dropped of at 3284 Route 199 or mailed to P.O. Box 955, Pine Plains, NY 12567.
Meanwhile, on Monday, May 9, Molinaro said he believed there were ongoing conversations about the future of the project, although he said there could be code requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act mandating the sign’s installation. However, he remained optimistic negotiations between the town and the state could be brokered.
“I am certainly hopeful the DOT will work with the town to do what’s financially and logically correct,” the assemblyman said. “At this point it would be most productive for residents to contact the Town Board and our office to facilitate communication with the DOT and the town, but I’ll also take any calls people want to make.”
Kruk, meanwhile, said while people can send in letters and make calls, the project has already been awarded.
“Construction should start soon,” he said on Monday, adding from start to finish the project should take about three months. “The traffic signal will operate the same as it is now, but we will be enhancing the safety of the intersection by installing pedestrian indications.”
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