Concerned Saugerties town officials are drafting a letter urging the Department of Transportation to install a tri-color traffic light at the intersection of the southbound Thruway Exit and Route 32, across from Winston Farms. The already-dangerous intersection is bound to become more treacherous, said officials at a Dec. 11 town board meeting, when the Thruway Authority shifts to a cashless tolling system — the removal of the toll plaza, which slows incoming traffic, is already underway.
According to Highway Superintendent Doug Myer, “hundreds of accidents” have taken place there over the years.
“[Write] as stern of a letter as you feel comfortable with to whomever needs to hear it that we don’t want on-the-shelf votes,” said Myer to the town board when the intersection was discussed.
According to the Washington State Department of Transportation website (the New York State DOT site did not have comparable figures to cite), it costs taxpayers between $250,000 to $500,000 to purchase and install a traffic signal; electric bills and routine maintenance amount to about $8,000 a year. The New York DOT reports that they receive over 1,000 traffic signal requests per year — once a request is received, the request receives a case number, an engineer is assigned to the particular site and traffic conditions are documented. A 2007 study, “Saugerties Area Mobility Analysis,” conducted by the Thruway Authority, DOT, the Ulster County Planning Board, town and village officials, representatives from CSX and other shareholders, suggested that a roundabout be installed at the site to lessen the frequency of accidents, and called the area “under-signaled.” As of 2007, the intersection was considered the highest trafficked site in the town with an average of over 9,000 vehicles per day.
According to town board member Leeanne Thornton, the Saugerties Transportation Advisory Council invited representatives from the DOT and the Thruway Authority to its meeting earlier this month to discuss possible solutions to prevent future accidents. Thornton said that both representatives agreed that “more studies need[ed] to be conducted.”
“It’s just a delay tactic,” she said at the meeting. “You could just tell that everyone was patting each other on the back.”
Although the board sent letters to the Thruway Authority and the DOT in April, Town Supervisor Fred Costello Jr. said that they intend to do so again. “It would be good to remind them what needs to be done.”
As of April, according to a resolution that the board passed previously, there were 25 accidents at the intersection in the last five and a half years.
“[We should] see if [County Executive Pat Ryan] could throw some weight behind this,” said town board member John Schoonmaker. “He’s been very proactive and very vocal on a lot of issues.”