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Oct 16, 2008 2:35 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

County considers roundabout for Flanders intersection

Oct 16, 2008 2:35 PM

The intersection of County Route 31 and County Route 104 in Flanders has always been a dangerous one due to an unusual configuration and the lack of a traffic signal—a one-two punch that has contributed, at least in part, to nearly two dozen accidents and 10 injuries over the past three years.

To help reduce the number of both accidents and injuries, the Suffolk County Department of Public Works now has plans to install a roundabout at the intersection by 2010, according to William Hillman, the chief engineer of highways, structures and waterways for the county department.

“We know the intersection does have issues, but we can’t go into the issues because of insurance liabilities,” Mr. Hillman said during a recent interview. “But we are planning a roundabout to improve safety at the location.”

There have been 22 reported accidents at the intersection of the two county roads since October 15, 2005, according to records supplied by the Southampton Town Police Department. Ten people have been injured in those accidents, according to documentation provided by Town Police Lieutenant Bruce Molloy.

Mr. Hillman explained that Suffolk County has been working on plans for the roundabout since 2000. The design of the roundabout is scheduled to be completed by next year as long as funding remains available. Construction on the traffic circle could be completed by 2010, he added.

The projected cost of the roundabout, which includes studies addressing the actual reconstruction of the intersection, will cost around $1.25 million, according to Mr. Hillman.

He explained that the county first began investigating its options after receiving complaints about the high number of accidents occurring at the intersection, which is located just north of Sunrise Highway and Gabreski Airport in Westhampton. There have been three reported accidents at the intersection, including one involving a Town Police cruiser, since August.

In early October, there was an accident just north of the intersection that resulted in Patrick Hawkins, 38, of Riverhead having to be airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center with serious injuries after his car was sideswiped by another vehicle driven by Scott Gillespie, 55, of Jamesport. Mr. Hawkins’s car struck a tree in the accident, police said.

In late August, the drivers of a police car and a Honda Pilot were involved in an accident that required both to be transported to local hospitals with minor injuries.

And in early August, Edward Ferris, 75, of Quogue was killed after he apparently lost control of his car and struck a tree near the same intersection.

Though some think that a roundabout will make the intersection safer to navigate, not everyone is convinced that the county will be able to redesign the intersection in the allotted time.

“I have heard talk about a roundabout, but I haven’t seen any surveyor sticks,” said Lt. Molloy, who also serves as a go-between for the Town Police and Suffolk County. “There’s a lot of things on the drawing board, but who’s to say what will happen in these economic times.”

Likewise, Ryan Horn, a spokesperson for Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, expressed doubt that a solution will be reached in the near future. He explained that the county’s downturn in sales tax revenue, as well as “the fact that the county doesn’t spend a lot of money on the East End,” decreases the likelihood that the roundabout will be installed.

Southampton Town Police Department Sergeant Herb Johnson explained that a number of factors make the intersection of County Route 31 and County Route 104 treacherous. He noted that the most common accident there usually involves a car traveling south on County Route 104 hitting a car whose driver is attempting to turn north 
from County Route 31 and onto Route 104.

“There’s limited visibility there,” Sgt. Johnson said. “If a person is going too fast on 104, it’s possible that the driver on 31 can’t see them.”

Drivers guilty of the “New York stop,” the equivalent of rolling through a stop sign, are typically to blame for these types of accidents, he added. “Most people don’t fully stop there,” Sgt. Johnson said. “They think they do.”

Sgt. Johnson also noted that the lack of lighting on both roads, especially near the intersection, also contributes to accidents. The county’s tentative plans for the roundabout do not include the installation of exterior lighting. Mr. Hillman explained that it would be Southampton Town’s responsibility to provide such lighting, though it could prove to be troublesome to do so because power lines would have to be installed in the area.

Mr. Horn said there are no current plans before the Town Board to install lighting along either of the roads.

Once it is completed, Mr. Hillman said the roundabout will resemble others on the East End, including those 
in Riverhead, Riverside and Westhampton Beach. “It will have a standard roundabout design,” he said.

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I seem to remember this issue coming up during the hearings for the Hamptons Industrial and Technical Park. Money should have been appropriated in the budget in anticipation that any large development at Gabreski will impact CR104/CR 31and other intersections.
By gordie howe (55), hockeytown usa on Oct 21, 08 9:36 PM
I don't believe that it's limited visibility.It's the fact that these people turning north on Rt.104 from CR 31 can't judge speed and distance.There is nothing blocking the view of any car headed south on Rt.104. If the roundabout is too expensive,why not a flasing caution light on 104 and a flashing red on CR 31?
By Bopche (8), Quogue on Oct 22, 08 1:00 PM
That's flashing,not flasing.Sorry.
By Bopche (8), Quogue on Oct 22, 08 1:01 PM
Why not put up a traffic light like the one at the 104/105 intersection to the North ?
By PrivateerMatt (390), Southampton on Oct 22, 08 1:12 PM
oops ! I forgot to read page 2.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Southampton on Oct 22, 08 1:13 PM
Funny, I never thought of that "triangle" being in Flanders.

Many of the problems would be solved if motorists coming from Riverhead would signal their intention to either bear left toward Quogue/East Quogue, or turn right toward Gabreski Airport.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Oct 25, 08 10:44 AM
A traffic circle is a GREAT idea, I can't imagine why it would cost so much to build...
By Stephen M Takach (3), Southampton on Oct 26, 08 10:24 PM
That intersection has always been sketchy. Anyone who has lived here for a long time knows this, and the new development at Gabreski just makes it worse. I agree that all anyone needs to do is pay attention, watch their speed, signal their turns, and simply follow traffic laws. But the reality is that people don't drive safely, so we need to make the intersection as idiot proof as possible.

Yes, it is a huge cost to design and construct the roundabout
By jm (17), Hampton Bays on Nov 3, 08 11:12 AM
JM, I have lived here for "a long time," and I pass through that intersection up to ten times a week, 48 weeks a year.

99% of any problems there could be avoided by the simple courtesy of drivers from the Northwest signaling their intentions.

It has nothing to do with Gabreski Airport, but I agree about paying attention, watching one's speed, signaling directions, and following traffic laws.

But your intention "to make the intersection as idiot proof of possible" is ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Nov 3, 08 11:26 AM