As you drive through the town and village of New Paltz along Route 299/Main Street, you pass through several intersections that spark heated discussions in our little corner of the world. New Paltz residents are passionate about this topic, as I was quick to learn when a question I posed on local social media about our best/worst intersections resulted in over 150 responses from 65 individuals.
In addition, thanks to Mike Katz and Eric Cichinsky, founders and owners of Carry Out Kings, a restaurant-to-home delivery service (https://www.carryoutkings.com), I was also able to tap into the practical wisdom of the company’s drivers and customer service staff. These ten individuals live in the village and operate out of the Carry Out headquarters above P&G’s into the wee hours of the morning. Their occupation of delivering meals from 17 local restaurants seven days a week to homes throughout New Paltz gives them a more varied perspective on our roads than that of the average Facebooker.
From these two sources I learned that there are no nominations for best intersection. As one person posted, “Best intersection: none; worst intersection: all between Putt Corners and Huguenot.” In all, 21 locations were singled out for mention, with safety trumping inconvenience as the major complaint. One Carry Out Kings driver said simply, “This is a tourist town, a college town. We have tourists and students wandering all over Main Street at every hour of the day.” Of course the flip side of all the visitors and students adding to the foot and car traffic in our community is to consider the alternative.
It will come as no surprise to locals and weekend and summer visitors alike that the intersection of Main Street with Route 208 and Route 32 North received the most criticism. The Route 208 junction “… is the worst, especially when pedestrians don’t wait for the pedestrian signal“ was an opinion shared by many. One individual commented, “The intersection is really narrow, the turn lane on the 208 side isn’t clearly marked, and traffic backs up at all four points because the intersection isn’t large enough for all the traffic that goes through there.” Carry Out Kings staff were a little less aeriated about this location since “anyone who knows New Paltz learns every way possible to avoid crossing Main Street at that intersection.” One driver also confirmed that the two lanes on the Route 208 side do cause an additional complication. Since they are not marked, it’s unclear to the drivers going straight whether they should be in the right or left lane, so inevitably cars end up side by side in the two lanes, pulling forward together when the light turns green and jockeying for position as they feed into the one lane on the other side of the intersection. Then there are the drivers in the left lane who want to go straight but find themselves stuck behind a car trying to make a left turn.
The most recent data available from the New York State Department of Transportation shows the Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) volume at this location to be 10,660 vehicles and, as one resident told me, if you’ve ever tried to get across that intersection around 5 o’clock in the afternoon, you’ll know that you often sit through two or three cycles of red and green lights before finally getting through.
The runner up as second worst intersection is the one at Route 208, Jansen Road and Cedar Lane. “Many accidents there, and I believe there was at least one fatal one in recent years.” “Coming from Cedar Lane trying to get across to Jansen is very scary. Cars always speed on 208 coming from both directions.”
Finally, another intersection we all love to hate, scoring number 3 out of 21 in the rankings of the Facebook group pages, is the one where M&T Bank, the businesses at Dedrick’s Plaza and the middle school all make their home. This is the intersection where Main Street, Route 32 South and North Manheim come together in an awkward kind of way. As one person commented, “If you’re heading south on North Manheim, only about three cars can get through the light at one time. It’s an extremely short green light [and] traffic backs up halfway to John Street.” Another data-oriented individual commented, “When stuck in the jam there, I sometimes count the stopped cars I can see in all four directions, very often more than 20, while the pedestrians who have pressed the button have long ago crossed the street.” Considering that an average of 15,000 vehicles converges at this intersection each day, it’s no wonder it appears near the top of the list. Carry Out Kings drivers and staff totally concur regarding the problems at this location, noting that “when the middle school lets out each afternoon, the traffic stretches way back to the college on Route 32. Someone should do something. It is chaos with people exiting the middle school.”
Dishonorable mention also goes to the intersections at: P&G’s and Starbucks, the Carmine Liberta Bridge, Butterville/Albany Post Road and the two Stop & Shop intersections with Main Street. Carry Out King drivers expressed concern about the number of near misses at the marked pedestrian crossings on Main Street at the P&G’s-Starbucks corner. “I live here, man. Every night people blow by those stripes and I hear people yelling, ‘Hey, dude … this is a crossing!” although it was acknowledged that some pedestrians do not make it easy for drivers when they pause a few steps into the crosswalk to continue chatting with friends back on the sidewalk while drivers wait.
Regarding problem intersections in New Paltz, one person wrote, “There isn’t just one. I think they are all accidents waiting to happen.”
So what are the solutions to our intersection problems? I learned that they, in fact, abound. In part II of this column, I do my best to summarize the accumulated wisdom of community members, the New York State Department of Transportation, Ulster County, the New Paltz Transportation Implementation Committee and of course the folks from Carry Out Kings.