Residents of Peconic Bay Boulevard in Laurel turned out in force at a Southold Town Board meeting last Tuesday night, demanding solutions for speedsters on their road.
Residents say drivers are passing over the double yellow line and tailgating those driving the speed limit, and that cars and trucks are speeding without concern for pedestrians or bikers. There needs to be better enforcement or traffic measures implemented to force people to slow down, the neighbors said, emphasizing that there must be consequences for failing to observe the rules of the road.
“I teach high school. If you establish rules and you don’t enforce them, could you imagine what the high schools would look like?” said boulevard resident Kerri Frend.
Ms. Frend has represented the concerns of herself and her neighbors to the Town Board in the past. She led the conversation last Tuesday night, with nearly 20 neighbors showing support in person. More neighbors joined via Zoom, she said.
“When walking my dog, many people pass me on the other side of the road. However, they do not slow down. When they pass me on the correct side, they are very close and fast. It’s nerve-wracking. After passing, they will continue to speed up even faster,” Ms. Frend said, reading from an email sent to her by a concerned resident. Ms. Frend noted that passing traffic is so loud, she can’t open her windows on a nice day.
Signs haven’t worked, she added. Four radar signs were installed along Peconic Bay Boulevard earlier this month and one has already been knocked down and repaired by the town. Southold also adopted a weight limit last year, to keep trucks off the road.
“The only options are either cameras that ticket, an uptick of police or speed cushions, or any combination,” Ms. Frend said.
Some residents pointed out that the high fines and community service imposed for speeding along Hubbard Avenue in Aquebogue have proved a deterrent, and requested similar measures along Peconic Bay Boulevard. Many criticized the lack of police presence on the street.
“There is no meaningful police presence when it comes to traffic enforcement on our roads. It’s pathetic that our representatives can’t get a handle on this,” Ms. Frend said, reading from another email. If the department is understaffed, then the town should address that, she read, and referring to another message: “Do we have to wait for someone to be killed by a speeding vehicle? This debate has gone on long enough.”
Ms. Frend and others also highlighted measures taken in other villages such as dozens of speed bumps added in Patchogue and a lower speed limit set in Sag Harbor.
Town Board member Jill Doherty said the town hasn’t started discussing speed bumps yet, but pointed out that both Patchogue and Sag Harbor are incorporated villages, which may have different code than towns. Southold also needs approval from the state to add signs and change speed limits on roads, Ms. Doherty said.
“We know the situation at Peconic Bay Boulevard. It’s like many other side roads in our town, there is not one solution,” Ms. Doherty said. Supervisor Scott Russell has emailed police chief Martin Flatley about improving police enforcement along Peconic Bay Boulevard, according to board members. “We’re trying things. Nothing’s going to work overnight, unfortunately.”
Peconic Bay Boulevard resident Kim Caldwell said speeding and traffic are “rampant” issues on all North Fork roads, and there needs to be a “community effort” and “multi-disciplinary approach.”
“A person hired by the town strictly for traffic enforcement, ticketing would cover the cost of their salary. What about articles in the newspaper, a campaign? It’s ironic that everybody comes to the North Fork to slow down,” she said.
Ellen Wagner, another boulevard resident, said she called the police after she moved on the road, about a year ago, after she saw a truck almost hit a pair of elderly pedestrians.
“I said, ‘Why is it so loud when they speed by?’ He said, ‘That’s the road you have to get used to.’ I said, ‘Well, what about this problem?’ He goes, ‘Well, I’ll tell you, you’ve got to move off the main road. Somebody drove through my bushes and I moved to a dead-end street.’ And I said, ‘Okay, well, is there any enforcement?’ He goes, ‘Ma’am, the problem is, we pull these guys over, they’re our cousins,’ ” Ms. Wagner said.
“We’re trying things. Nothing’s going to work overnight, unfortunately.”Councilwoman Jill Doherty
Ms. Doherty said Ms. Wagner’s interaction was “a little disturbing” and said officers should be treating everybody equally. In response to requests for more police officers, she said the town typically hires new officers each year to spread out costs and avoid tax hikes. She added that the Town Board has been “equally frustrated” and has spoken with the police chief.
Other residents emphasized that Chief Flatley works for the Town Board, who was elected by town taxpayers.
“There are elections every year in town. Last time, a lot of people changed. That could happen again next time. I hate to make threats, but being nice hasn’t worked,” someone said.
Town Board member Sarah Nappa emphasized that she’s been working on the traffic issues on Peconic Bay Boulevard with the Transportation Commission — she pointed to the recently added radar signs and last year’s weight limit.
“But we have the other roads to think of as well,” she said. “We moved some money from last year to get those signs ordered before the new budget came out, which we budgeted more money to do more signs, but the pilot program was for Peconic Bay Boulevard. We have to roll that out for the rest of the town too … I am now looking into the cameras. The cameras are another step, but there’s some legal issues with those.”
Ms. Frend later said in an email to The Suffolk Times that Peconic Bay Boulevard and connecting roads are “a death trap” and are “abused by speeding vehicles, reckless drivers, drunk drivers from the vineyards/breweries,” and residents “experience an obscene amount of traffic because it has now become a bypass to avoid the traffic on Main Road.”
“Through traffic and tourists should not use our roads to avoid traffic,” she said. “This is a residential neighborhood. Residents cannot enjoy their homes with the constant sound of vehicles and sitting outside in our yards is almost impossible because of the noise pollution, not to mention the many large groups of motorcycles that use our road as a scenic route. There is no consideration for those who reside here. These roads were never intended to accommodate the heavy traffic and it is not only dangerous, but it decreases our quality of life.”
Clarification: A few quotes originally attributed to Peconic Bay Boulevard resident Kerry Frend were read aloud from correspondence with concerned neighbors. These have since been clarified.