Traffic concerns continue to dominate discussion of a proposed Dunkin’ drive-thru at the intersection of routes 28 and 375 in West Hurley with many, including Planning Board members, questioning the ability to mitigate traffic backups.
Customers turning into the Dunkin’ entrance could cause a safety concern for those heading south on Route 375 toward Route 28 and cresting a hill. Backups could also pose a danger for those turning from Route 28 onto Route 375 and heading north toward Woodstock and not expecting stopped traffic, many noted at the October 4 Hurley Planning Board meeting.
The proposed drive through for the Dunkin’ (formerly Dunkin’ Donuts) is on the corner formerly occupied by the Booked by Barthel travel agency and the Robert Sinnott Allstate insurance agency. The building would be razed to make way for a drive-thru-only Dunkin’ with claimed capacity for 18 cars queueing in a loop around the building.
While the public hearing for the site plan was in August, many spoke during the meeting’s general comment period.
“I do know that my common sense [tells me] when you come over the hill, when you come from Woodstock and you’re coming to 375 towards 28, you come over the hill, sometimes there’s enough traffic backed up from the light itself, you can almost have an accident coming over the hill and, oh, there’s a car you didn’t expect,” said Woodstock Town Councilwoman Laura Ricci, who noted she was speaking as a concerned citizen, not as an official. “I continue to have concerns that cars will flow out of the Dunkin’establishment and into 375,” Ricci said. “And I predict it’s not a question of if there’ll be an accident. I think it’ll be when. So from somebody who uses that intersection all the time, I see a traffic concern to putting Dunkin’ there and I do continue to have that concern.”
Jem Maverick, who also spoke at the August public hearing on the site plan, said she continues to have concerns over traffic. “When you make the right turn at that ongoing green light to go onto 375, which I imagine will have to change, it’s going to be backed up there. There’s just not a lot of room to get cars in and people are not that good at driving anymore. And then there’s the road rage aspect. It just seems like a disaster waiting to happen.” Maverick also noted navigation software will redirect motorists to some side streets during traffic backups. “I also want the board to keep in mind that Google will definitely put Pine Street as a shortcut, a detour, and all those people who live in that neighborhood are going to have cars whipping down there to avoid that intersection,” she said. “And they’re not going to be happy about it because that’s exactly what happened on Maverick Road. Google does that. They tell you all the shortcuts and all of a sudden, it’s a speedway.”
Melissa Gibson raised concerns about conflicting traffic patterns caused by people exiting the Dunkin’. “There are some people that are going to be coming in off Route 28, coming from a westerly direction. Right at that entrance at the same time people have just gotten their coffee are going to be looking to get out,” Gibson said.
“And then there’s people on the outer concentric circle, that are coming off 375 looking to place their order. So there’s that point at which there’s three different intentions of vehicles that are going to have to rely on ‘You go. No, you go.’ And while that’s happening, that could be backed up,” she said. “I’m already everyday on that road, seeing the backup traffic on the hill over 375, and it’s blind, you can’t see it. So if you’re coming from 28 and you’re heading north on 375 and you want to go in there, there’s a not enough time for you to see what’s coming through, and if someone’s been waiting on line for three traffic lights, it’s going to be difficult.”
Town engineer cites potential traffic backups
“Our engineer notes that the number of times the driveway is blocked by southbound queues during peak hours are significant and will result in long queues of existing eastbound Dunkin Donuts traffic and long queues of northbound left-turn entering Dunkin Donuts traffic at the intersection of New York state Route 375 and Dunkin’ proposed access,” Hurley planning consultant Andriana Beltrani said. “These queues will result in traffic congestion, traffic circulation issues, and safety concerns, both in the Dunkin’ Donuts site and on New York State Route 375. The applicant should show measures to mitigate these conditions…So that kind of confirms the concerns with the queue length blocking that area.”
While Beltrani noted the applicant is proposing two menu boards, which would be the first such setup in Ulster County, she still recommended the applicant demonstrate it can accommodate a sufficient number of vehicles at the site. “The applicant should provide a justification that the proposed 18-vehicle drive-thru lane will be adequate to support the anticipated drive-thru queues at the proposed site,” she said. “The concern is that the 18-vehicle drive-thru lane may not actually be long enough. The other question is whether there are efficiencies built into this particular site because there are two menu boards.”
She also recommended measures be taken to improve safety and circulation including accommodations for delivery vehicles. “I’m still concerned about the queuing on 375, with people going into the facility from 375 and then trying to get back onto 375 when the light is red,” Planning Board member Tony Bonavist said. He also noted comments made by the Ulster County Planning Board about traffic congestion.
Planning Board chair Mitchell Cohen noted the potential for major traffic conflicts.
“You got cars coming from Woodstock, looking to go on 28 and I want to come out and go left on 375 which is not going to happen because everybody’s in a rush to go to work,” Cohen said. “And you’ve got cars coming in at a high speed from 28, and they’re not stopping because there’s no stop sign. There’s no yield sign. There’s no nothing there…So for you to dart out into the road, it’s unsafe. So how can you safely manage and control that particular intersection?”
It’s the DOT’s plan
Franchise owner John Joseph said the state Department of Transportation designed the entry and exit plan. He said he asked what more can be done to mitigate traffic concerns. “What they have offered is a do not block the box signage and square out on the road and they sent me a little diagram and kind of running it through the channels to see if they’ll approve that,” he said.
Cars turning from Route 28 onto Route 375 can use the shoulder to go around a stopped car and that is legal and acceptable, Joseph said.
“Shoulders are for disabled vehicles and they’re for emergency vehicles,” Cohen said.
“No. Under New York State law, you have to come to a stop and then you can pass on the right,” countered Joseph.
Cohen attempted to confirm. “So what you’re saying is, if you were, let’s say, coming off of 28 going towards Woodstock, and a person is going to make a left turn, and you’re saying that a person that’s coming behind him is going to make a complete stop, and then go around to the right?”
Cohen was also unsatisfied with the DOT’s solution. “Painting the block, that’s like walking outside and literally looking up and saying to the spaceships, please come down. Because if you go to Adams (Fairacre Farms), nobody pays attention to that block. Nobody pays attention to it. It’s like, it doesn’t exist,” he said. “I don’t think that painting and a sign is going to stop people from being stupid and stop the inexperienced drivers, the people that say ‘ Oh, a Dunkin’ Donuts,’ all these people that are in a rush, and they’re going to do something, and it’s just not the way it’s set up. It’s just not safe for [the] volume of cars that’s coming on 375 and 28 in that area,” Cohen said.
Engineering human behavior
“You can’t change human behavior and you can’t engineer for it. You can ticket people and maybe that will convince them, but you can’t ask an applicant to engineer for what the public may or may not do,” Joseph countered.
“That’s what you need to do. You need to engineer for what people will do,” Ricci said.
The Planning Board has scheduled a site walk with the developers on October 19 at 8 a.m., a time that was chosen because it is during peak morning traffic for the intersection.