COPAKE—In light of recent accidents, including a fatality, County Route 7A residents have made a renewed plea for a lower speed limit on the stretch of road between the Copake hamlet and Ancram town line.
At the August 13 Town Board meeting, several residents told the board about their terrifying experiences living along the road with many curves, blind spots and an onslaught of lead-footed drivers.
Gabrielle Tessler, a county Route 7A resident, told the board she opposes the 55 mph speed limit between the Copake and West Copake hamlets in a densely populated area where people bike, jog, walk and children and animals cross the road. She was hit by a car there while riding her bike a year ago, she said. Since she moved there in 2005, she has been fighting for a lower speed limit on this “dangerous” stretch of road. She acknowledged the town’s support for a reduced speed limit and suggested that now, because of a recent tragic death on that road, maybe the state Department of Transportation (DOT), which has the power to lower the limit, will agree.
The tragic death she referred to happened July 31 just before 11 a.m. when a car and a motorcycle collided on County Route 7A at the Tamarac Road intersection just east of the West Copake hamlet.
State Police reported that the driver of the car, an unidentified 17-year-old, failed to yield the right-of-way when making a left turn onto County Route 7A, heading west, and drove into the path of the motorcyclist, who was thrown off his motorcycle and killed.
Lisa Edstrom, who lives across the street from Ms. Tessler, said she has a blind driveway situated on a curve and cannot see oncoming traffic when pulling out of her driveway, which she is terrified to do. She wanted to know what she and others could do to “pressure the state” to reduce the speed limit.
Resident Gregory Hagin wrote in an email to the town supervisor and deputy supervisor, “When the limit was first posted many years ago there were few homes along this stretch, and Copake was much less settled. Now there are many homes and families with children, and regular usage by bicyclists, runners and walkers. It is not a rural stretch of roadway anymore (it hasn’t been for many years), and the cars speeding by are menacing to say the least.”
Stephen Sanborn noted that the town had taken action to curb speeders in that area last year by posting an electronic speed limit sign and enlisting an increased police presence. He said that helped somewhat at the time, but the whole stretch of road still remains a problem.
During the town board’s discussion of the matter Supervisor Jeanne Mettler recounted that last year the town submitted a request to lower the speed limit from 55 to 40 mph between the Copake hamlet and West Copake. The speed limit through the West Copake hamlet is 35 mph.
According to procedure, the town sent the request to the County Department of Public Works, which reviewed it and forwarded it to the DOT. Ms. Mettler said, the town received a letter dated November 23, 2021 denying the request along with the comment, “circumstances don’t warrant it.”
The supervisor noted that of the seven speed reduction requests she has made, five have been denied outright, one was just partially granted and only one was granted.
‘It is not a rural stretch of roadway anymore…. and the cars speeding by are menacing.’
This time around, the supervisor suggested that she write a resolution containing the speed reduction request and include the facts instead of just a standard “pro forma” request.
She also said she will take the advice given to her by a town clerk from a nearby town, who said she does not mention a specific speed limit reduction number in her requests and they are “always granted.” The clerk just asks that the speed limit be lowered and lets the state decide what it should be lowered to, said the supervisor.
As for the boundaries of the section of road where the limit will be requested, it was suggested that the entire stretch of road from the Copake hamlet to the Ancram line be included.
“Should we just take a small piece of the pie or take the whole thing?” asked Councilman Stosh Gansowski.
Ms. Mettler said in a follow-up phone call with The Columbia Paper that it may be wiser to target the section from West Copake to the Copake hamlet.
The supervisor will prepare a resolution containing the speed limit reduction request and present it for a vote at the board’s upcoming September 8 meeting.
In another matter involving the state DOT, Deputy Supervisor/Councilman Richard Wolf said he has written a letter to DOT at the supervisor’s request asking the department to reconsider its decision not to put in a traffic light at the State Route 23/County Route 7/Craryville Road intersection in Craryville where a new gas station has been constructed.
Mr. Wolf said he pointed out that circumstances have changed: that four accidents have occurred there, two with personal injuries requiring ambulance transport and increasing traffic backups due to new businesses in the area and the reluctance of drivers to pull out onto Route 23 in the face of fast-moving traffic. He pointed out that a prior 2018 traffic study done in early May was flawed because it did not account for the tremendous increase in area traffic during the summer and ski seasons. He said if the DOT will not reconsider putting in a traffic light, he asked the agency to at least come up with some positive suggestions to enhance public safety at the intersection.
To contact Diane Valden email