Modern roundabouts in Smithtown could be a viable option to promote pedestrian safety and stimulate Main Street economy, according to several politicians and traffic experts during Friday’s open forum hosted by AARP.
During the two forum sessions held Friday at the , the final report from , was discussed with an emphasis on his suggested use of the modern roundabout.
Burden's report stated that the use of modern roundabouts would "allow motorists to stay in motion and therefore pass through the corridor in reduced time" allowing for less delays. He also states roundabouts would improve pedestrian crossing on Main Street, produce less noise and reduce pollution.
William Stoner, associate state director for livable communities at AARP, asked the audience to hold up the red, yellow or green piece of paper in the air for who was not in favor, who was unsure and who was in favor of the modern roundabout idea for Smithtown.
To start the meeting much of the audience held up the red paper indicating they were not in favor of the roundabout and the yellow paper indicating they were unsure. At the end of the presentation, however, there were far more yellow and green sheets of paper raised, indicating they were interested in hearing more or in favor of the modern roundabout idea.
Stoner referred to the red sheets changing to yellow and the yellow sheets turning to green at the end of the meeting as “good news.”
“Through this forum the focus was to educate people,” Stoner said. “They understood that roundabouts aren’t something to be afraid of, it could work for Smithtown and it could dramatically improve the safety in Smithtown and hopefully the economy."
Audience member Greg Suhr Sr. of Kings Park, who spoke during the presentation, said after that he is absolutely in favor of roundabouts and travels Main Street roughly four or five times a day. Suhr said he is a fan of jughandles, a ramp or portion of road that forces traffic to only make left turns at certain intersections, such as the ones he would encounter while driving in sections of New Jersey, but roundabouts are a quality alternative.
Suhr, who does patient transporting for doctors and maintenance work during the day, said roundabouts would work in Smithtown if the public were educated on how to use them.
“The public needs to be educated how to use these lanes. Once you know how to use them it will smooth everything out,” he said.
Also backing the installation of modern roundabouts was Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, R- St. James.
“I am a very big fan, I do believe that they work, I’ve done some homework on it … if you look for solutions inside the box they’re gone, they’re not there,” he said. “I believe in it, I want to talk about it, I want to help people understand it."
Fitzpatrick said the solution to Main Street and the installation of modern roundabouts sooner than later needs to start from the community and work its way up to the New York State Department of Transportation.
“I think it could be very realistic if the community gets behind it,” he said. “Top down, people will push back. Bottom up? Inform them, show them, educate them and build it that way then I think it could happen more quickly than people realize.”
Burden’s final report offered five different locations along Main Street where a modern roundabout could work, including Route 111 at Route 25A, Landing Avenue at Miller Place, Lawrence Avenue, Maple Avenue and New York Avenue at Redwood Lane. While five locations were provided, not all five were suggested for implementation, and numerous speakers at the meeting stated the roundabouts work best in pairs.
The report also states an “inner circulation road” would divert traffic from and decrease the number of cars traveling on a more shopper and pedestrian friendly Main Street and facilitate a possible removal of two lanes from the road. The inner circulation road suggested would run from New York Avenue east along Ma Bell Lane to Maple Avenue, and after crossing Maple it would travel through a parking lot and then from Percy Avenue to Lawrence Avenue. It would then go north on Lawrence to the back of the stores on Main Street.
Burden’s report concludes that the DOT proposal to remove one lane and not replace the signals with roundabouts would cause delays and not address speed and the ability for pedestrians to cross Main Street.
Following the meeting Stoner said roundabouts would provide the significant change Main Street needs.
“There are other short term and long term options that are available but we feel after all these years and just most recently with the continued pedestrian fatalities and collisions that are happening and the Main Street vacancies – 36 vacant Main Street businesses – we’ve got to do something significant,” he said. “We believe that roundabouts is that solution.”