Two accidents so far at traffic circle

05/06/2010 12:00 AM |

Tuesday morning traffic at the newly installed two-lane roundabout at Route 58 and Roanoke Avenue, where two traffic accidents have been reported in less than two weeks.

Two accidents have been reported at the new two-lane Route 58 roundabout in Riverhead since it became fully operational less than three weeks ago. Though neither crash was serious, some residents say they will avoid the roundabout because traversing it seems so difficult, particularly traveling north to south on Roanoke Avenue.

Riverhead Police Chief David Hergermiller said the circle is a challenge because Route 58 is two lanes in both directions while Roanoke Avenue is only one lane.

“The tricky part is that you have four lanes going east-west and only two lanes going north-south,” Mr. Hegermiller said, “so people heading north or south aren’t used to that additional lane of east-west traffic that they now have to account for” in the circle.

Last Wednesday, Barbara Flynn of Aquebogue was driving a black Cadillac sedan through the roundabout when it was hit by a tractor trailer driven by Henry Panama of Queens about 2:30 p.m, according to town police. Witnesses said the tractor trailer crushed the sedan, but no serious injuries were reported.

On April 20, the day after the two-lane circle became fully operational, Diane Pandolfo was driving a Saturn sedan westbound on Route 58 through the circle when her vehicle hit a Mercury Mountaineer driven by Stacy Schweitzer of Laurel. Police said Ms. Pandolfo failed to yield to Ms. Schweitzer, who was already in the circle.

Suffolk County added the second lane to prevent backups once County Route 58 is widened to two lanes in both directions all the way from Ostrander Avenue to the Long Island Expressway, said Bill Hillman, the chief engineer at the Suffolk County Department of Public Works. Mr. Hillman said in a previous interview that traffic lights were not considered an option to replace the circle because the Riverhead Town Board had designated it an historic site.

Though there are two large signs on both sides of Route 58 indicating how to navigate the roundabout, residents say that many people using the circle seem unsure of the rule that traffic entering the circle must yield to traffic already in it.

Riverhead Free Library director Lisa Jacobs said she had entered the circle while traveling south on Roanoke Avenue last week and that another driver refused to yield as she changed lanes. “I was almost hit and I was following the rules,” she said. “I’ll never take it again.”

When heading south through the circle via Roanoke Avenue, drivers must get into the inner lane to avoid being directed by the outer lane pavement markings onto the next right turn, which would put them onto Route 58 westbound. And once reaching the inner lane, drivers heading south must quickly change to the right lane after passing the Route 58 turnoff in order to make the exit onto Roanoke.

Riverhead Town Board member Jodi Giglio said that people avoiding the circle like Ms. Jacobs could hurt local businesses, including the nearby 7-Eleven.

“I used to stop and get a cup of coffee,” she said. “Now I don’t do that.”

Ms. Giglio, who was not a Town Board member when the decision to keep the roundabout was made, said that she did not think it was the best option for the busy intersection.

“It’s no longer a quaint road, it’s a county road,” she said. “I think a traffic light would have been the safest way.”

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