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Aug 20, 2015 2:08 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Community Members Revisit Contentious Long Beach Road Guardrails

Chief Engineer of Suffolk County Department of Public Works William Hillman explaining the proposed raised median for Long Beach Road. ALISHA STEINDECKER
Aug 24, 2015 4:54 PM

Members of the Sag Harbor, North Haven, Noyac and Bay Point communities recently met with Suffolk County officials to discuss guardrails that run the length of Long Beach Road, with many making the case that the barriers make the road more dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists than before they were installed last year.

County officials attended the August 19 meeting to propose what they thought could be a possible solution to the residents’ safety concerns, but quickly their idea of a 3-foot-wide, 4-inch-tall raised median, to separate a bike lane from the lane for vehicles, was shot down.

And to the disappointment of many of those in attendance, county officials were blunt in their affirmations that the guardrails will not be removed.

“The guardrails were put there because the conditions were such that guardrail was warranted,” said Suffolk County Department of Public Works Chief Engineer William Hillman. “I am not going to tell you something that is going to give you hope. It meets the warrants, and it is staying.” Of the potential of removal, he added, “It’s a huge liability. It’s not happening.”

The guardrails were installed last year in June at a cost of $300,000. Before last year, only the parking lot portion of Long Beach Road was lined with guardrails.

Many local residents thought they were aesthetically unappealing and made the road more dangerous for cyclists, who, they said, could be pinned up against the guardrail in the event of an accident.

“Every single citizen out here to whom I’ve spoken, everyone has said now cars are going faster, there have been more accidents, and everyone feels that their safety has been impinged by these,” said community member April Gornik.

Residents rejected the proposal for a median, which Mr. Hillman said would be similar to the one near Cromer’s Market. Cars would be farther from the bike lane than they are now, and the lanes would be separated by the raised median. Community members argued that the median would ultimately make it more dangerous for bicyclists, especially if they collided with it.

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who organized the meeting, was a big proponent of the idea of transforming the metal guardrails into wooden guardrails for aesthetic reasons, although he was told it is likely not feasible.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve been keeping my eye on wooden guardrails. In my 30 years, I have not been able to recommend the wooden guardrail,” said William Colavito, the director of highway design for Suffolk County. He cited safety and maintenance reasons, explaining that eventually the wood can separate from the metal portions of the guardrail and pose a threat to drivers. Nevertheless, county officials agreed to look into the idea.

They will also look into the possible installation of rumble strips between the motor vehicle lane and the bike lane, as many of the community members in the room raised their hands in favor of that proposal. Putting breaks in the guardrail, so that pedestrians have a place to step to escape from oncoming cars, was a new idea that officials agreed to explore.

A few other suggestions included creating a left-turn lane into Bay Point, as well as a crosswalk at Bay Point’s entrance.

Before everyone filed out of North Haven Village Hall, community members emphasized that they want the guardrails to be as invisible as possible, which county officials said might be achieved by a choice of paint color.

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They should put guardrails on the middle of the road too so that cars bouncing off of those rails don't cross the highway onto oncoming traffic and create a worse accident.
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Aug 20, 15 6:20 PM
maybe people should just learn how to drive
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Aug 20, 15 7:31 PM
2 members liked this comment
Mostly these guardrails are just about bureaucracy and excessive government justifying there own existence.
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Aug 20, 15 8:25 PM
Who got paid to put in those guard rails? Follow the money...bet it's someone connected to the bidding process...no other reason to suddenly put in guard rails that no one wants.
By InnerBay (72), Southampton on Aug 20, 15 8:57 PM
How about guide wires instead of guardrails, as on Sunrise. The county should put more effort into County Rd. 39 safety. It can use the median.
By harbor hound (31), southampton on Aug 20, 15 9:14 PM
On the North Fork, The Town, County etc., are being sued as it states they knew about the road being dangerous and did nothing about it and that led to that horrific crash. So when they pull the guard rails out as some people don't want to look at them, who is going to be liable for that? Can the liability be transferred to the few who are complaining about it? Who wants to be responsible for a preventable injury or worse...Unfortunately driving skills seem secondary today to cellphones and other ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Aug 21, 15 10:05 AM
NSCitizen - You point out a valid but separate issue. Our legal system, instead of requiring personal responsibility for one's actions,is designed to employ and enrich lawyers. This is especially true in NYS which has some of the worst examples of attorney entitlement provisions in the country. But what do you expect? The foxes are running the hen house.
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Aug 21, 15 1:52 PM
2 members liked this comment