Editorial: Suffolk should act now to ensure Route 48 safety

(Credit: Paul Squire)
(Credit: Paul Squire)

How many people have to die before Suffolk County does something to provide real safety for pedestrians crossing a stretch of County Road 48 near Soundview Restaurant, where beloved Laurel resident and dedicated environmentalist Howard Meinke lost his life last Thursday night?

County Legislator Al Krupski informs us a plan is in place to fully adjust the route of the two-lane highway in 2016. That’s too far off; certainly some measures can be taken now.

A crosswalk and small pedestrian crossing sign, the only safety measures currently in place there, are wholly ineffective, especially when it’s dark outside. Mr. Meinke was in the crosswalk when he was killed. Thomas Keating, 43, was walking just east of the crosswalk when he, too, was hit by a car and died in 2009. George Haase Sr., 76, was also hit by a car while crossing the street in 2007.

All three deaths occurred well after the completion of a 2004 traffic study conducted for the county Department of Public Works, which suggested adding a center median with plantings and curbs.

Mr. Haase’s death prompted Supervisor Scott Russell to call for action. Yet even today, there still aren’t any plants or curbing — both inexpensive traffic-calming measures — along the dangerous roadway. One can only wonder.

While the long-term plans — rerouting the roadway to the south to slow drivers — may just prove to be the permanent solution.
Given the cost and planning involved, however, it takes time to get such work under way. Mr. Krupski should lobby county officials to get moving now on what the DWP knew full well should have been done long ago. Curbs, a center median, even better lighting and rumble strips would have been a small price to pay to save a life — or three.

Instead, it appears someone somewhere either decided to save a buck or dropped the ball completely.