More than 20 parents and their children attended the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees meeting Monday night to show their support for the pedestrian-only phases at the intersection of Boston Post Road and Barry Avenue and Boston Post Road and Harrison Avenue.
During peak hours, traffic at those intersections can back up for several blocks, and the village has received numerous complaints from the fire and police departments, the Traffic Commission and residents requesting the removal of the pedestrian phase. The mayor and board began discussions on alternatives last week. But because of its proximity to F.E. Bellows and Daniel Warren elementary schools, parents say the four-way stops must remain for the safety of their children.
Gabrielle Cohen, who lives on South Barry Avenue and is a member of the Rye Neck School District Safety Committee, was part of the initiative to include an exclusive pedestrian phase at both intersections one year ago. The phase was added to improve pedestrian safety and encourage walking and biking to school, and the 18-month process included discussions with local and state officials and the Department of Transportation (DOT), she said.
"The initiative was supported by the Rye Neck School District, the PTSA, the local senior advocacy group and crossing guards," Cohen said, citing "overwhelming" support by residents. The level of concern regarding these intersections is reflected in the fact that similar measures have been adopted by nearby communities at major intersections along Boston Post Road, she added.
Another member of the Safety Committee recognized that while the phase has "helped tremendously," there is room for improvement in the light change operation itself at the intersection. (Initially, one of the issues was that the button to trigger one of the lights was not functioning properly.)
To Chari Topol-Allison, the problem is not the four-way stop, but the volume of cars driving through the "heavily trafficked" four-lane highway day and night. The phase "seems to be the only safe way to get pedestrians across in a timely manner," and signs alerting drivers that they are entering a school zone should be added, she said.
Several children also addressed the board, saying that they walk and bike to school and have experienced first hand the dangers at the intersection. Nine-year-old Nadine asked the board to "think about the safety of my friends and me," while 12-year-old Nicholas told the story of how he almost got hit while crossing the intersection when a walk sign was flashing.
Fire Chief Dean DeLitta, who also has children in Rye Neck schools, said that the traffic and safety issue has worsened since the light changed.
"The additional time in getting through this intersection has created extended delays in getting our drivers to the firehouses to respond with the fire apparatus as well as the response for our emergency vehicles," DeLitta wrote in an e-mail to village officials last week.
DeLitta also noted that in the past he has had to dispatch officers to the intersection due to traffic backing up to Rye and Harrison. Sometimes, he said, it takes three cycles to get a car past the intersection, a wait time of 5-6 minutes. During emergencies, he has had to travel on the wrong side of the road, forcing the cars to pull up on the sidewalk, he added.
DeLitta said the Fire Department could look into getting a remote control to manipulate traffic light changes in an emergency. Another alternative would be to ban specific right or left turns onto Boston Post Road or Barry Avenue, or to make drivers take an alternate route, suggested Trustee John Hofstetter.
Village Manager Rich Slingerland said he has contacted the traffic engineer who did the original study a year ago and asked him to review it and look into the updated functioning of the intersections and the speeding problem on North and South Barry Avenue. He has also contacted the New York State DOT (Boston Post Road is a State road) and will try to get a second opinion on the intersection, he said.
The discussion regarding this issue will be continued at the next work session and at an "informal" public hearing on June 28, said Mayor Norman Rosenblum, inviting the public to send more comments.