CHATHAM–The village wants to the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to do even less than the agency’s stripped down proposal for two stop signs at the intersection of state Routes 295 and 66.
At a public hearing on Thursday, the consensus from the people there was that the state should make changes to the stop sign and crosswalk on Route 295 where installed when the state attempted to improve traffic flow at the intersection only a few years ago.
Concerns about the awkward intersection were raised last year by CSX, the company that owns the railroad tracks that run through the village. The tracks cross Route 66 a few feet from the intersection with Route 295, and CSX worries that vehicles are stopping on the tracks.
The initial response of the transportation department was an offer to install a series of traffic lights. But village residents and business owners criticized that plan and an alternative proposal to reroute Main Street, saying the community could not afford more construction on Main Street so soon after the disruptions associated with the last state project. So DOT officials came back to the Village Board earlier this month with a proposal to add a stop sign on the northbound lane of Route 66 at the intersection with Route 295 and a stop sign near the end of Main Street (Route 66) by the Clock Tower as cars head south. The latest DOT plan also calls for a sign advising motorists: “Do not stop on tracks.”
Attendance was light Thursday, March 22 for a public hearing on this latest plan, but those who did show up at the Tracy Memorial expressed concerns about even the small changes now proposed for the intersection.
Retiring village Trustee Dave Chapman, who works for the county Highway Department, said a recent state traffic study reported that an average of 8,000 vehicles a day cross the tracks at that intersection. He said making the intersection a four-way stop, with the state’s call for a new stop sign on Main Street at Park Row, would cause more problems.
“There is no crash data,” he said of the intersection, which has not been the site of an accident in anyone’s memory. Mr. Chapman said the board should ask the state to conduct an engineering study of the intersection. Citing the manual, he said such a study is required before the state can put up stop signs. He also said his contacts at the County Highway Department suggested using the village police force to enforce the stop sign laws and the signaling laws at Route 295.
Village business owners said they did not think the intersection is safe but didn’t see the need for the added stop signs. Steve Campbell, who owns Video Visions on Route 66 at the intersection, said he has asked the state for years to add another stop sign on the Route 295 side or a blinking light to the stop sign already there. He said that the main cause of trouble at that intersection is people running the existing stop sign.
Villagers also talked about the crosswalk that was added during the road construction project. The crosswalk is north of the stop sign, and critics say it is dangerous for pedestrians. Several people also mentioned the turn-out that was built by the state but never opened because DOT officials realized after it was built that it wouldn’t work.
A CSX representative said at the meeting in early March that the intersection of Route 295 and Main Street had required reconfiguring to meet regulations for railroad crossing gates. The old gates were too long and caused a problem with the power lines. The abandoned turn-out was supposed to improve visibility but sight lines remain an issue.
“You have to be very careful with them,” Mr. Campbell said of working with the state. He served on the committee responsible for village input prior to and during the major state road and drainage project. Many of the problems at the intersection and on Main Street are due to DOT having ignored requests made by the village, Mr. Campbell said at the meeting.
Mr. Chapman said the board was getting help from State Senator Steve Saland (R-41st) and Assemblymen Steve McLaughlin (R-108th). The board will discuss the issue again at the regular meeting Thursday, April 12 before passing a resolution to send to the state about what the village wants at that intersection.