Toward a Safer Main Street

Ray DiBiese of McLean Associates is heading up a traffic and pedestrian safety study of downtown Bridgehampton. Taylor K. Vecsey

At its meeting on Monday night, the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee was given a window into the current pedestrian and traffic safety analysis of the hamlet’s Main Street.

The Town of Southampton hired L.K. McLean Associates, a Brookhaven firm, in late March, to make recommendations about increasing safety along Montauk Highway and best using $700,000 in state grant money earmarked for crosswalks and lighting improvements. The first phase of the study was approved at a price of $38,500. The first in-depth design in a second phase will cost $21,600.

Ray DiBiase, a traffic engineer and the vice president of McLean Associates, told the committee there have been 11 serious bicycle and pedestrian accidents in a three-year period in the downtown area. Anna Pump, the cookbook author and owner of Loaves & Fishes, was killed crossing the street by the Bridgehampton Post Office in October 2015.

Pedestrians need to be more visible, Mr. DiBiase told the group. During off-peak periods, when there is no traffic, speed is an issue, but during the summer season, traffic moves slowly through downtown and motorists veer off onto back roads.

“It’s a balancing act,” the engineer said. “We don’t want to do anything here that is going to increase the congestion — if you can believe that — on Montauk Highway, by encouraging people to use the bypass routes.”

His firm will continue to talk to community groups, emergency responders, and the business community, he said, before making recommendations. However, he laid out some of the options being considered. They include crosswalk signs with rectangular rapid-flashing beacons, overhead crosswalk signs lit with LED lights, traffic signals, raised medians, and crosswalk light beams.

The prospect of raised islands in the middle of Main Street, between the east and westbound lanes of traffic, drew particular discussion. How would emergency vehicles get through traffic?

Mr. DiBiase said they would be able to roll their tires along the side of the medians.

Others mentioned that trucks delivering to the Main Street restaurants park in the middle of the street. “They do that, but remember, it’s illegal,” said Tom Neely, the town’s transportation and traffic safety director.

The response from the crowd was: Why aren’t the police doing anything about it? Dick Bruce said that the trucks should be parking in the lots, even if they are not directly behind the restaurants. “If you can’t walk five-eighths of a mile, you shouldn’t be delivering beer,” he said.

Mr. Bruce asked about the yellow crosswalk stanchions and if the town planned to put any more out in the middle of the crosswalks. “I bought five of these signs out of my own pocket,” he said. “I’d like to turn that job over to someone other than myself. They are $400 apiece, and you get them in Deer Park.”

Christine Fetten, the town engineer, said there were some liability issues relative to the stanchions.

One thing Mr. DiBiase said he would not be recommending was another lighted crosswalk like the one in front of the Bridgehampton Library. “We know there are maintenance issues with them,” he said. The lights are often not working, committee members said.

Members also made it clear they hope the study will home in on lighting issues. One woman said any improvements would be irrelevant without lighting and enforcement. “None of it’s going to matter if we don’t have those two things.”

The town board will take its weekly work session on the road June 8 and hold one at the Bridgehampton Community House. The plan is for Mr. DiBiase to make an initial recommendation at that time.