By Ted Waddell
FOSTERDALE January 15, 2002 - Traffic at the Fosterdale four-way intersection has a lot of folks wishing they were seeing red.
A town supervisor and the president of the local school board said that, if the state doesnt install a red stop light controlling all approaches to the intersection, someday somebody is going to get killed or seriously injured.
The problem of what locals perceive to be a dangerous intersection is long standing, and local elected officals and the school board think the state should reconsider a previous decision not to change the existing traffic controls from a stop/caution to a four-way stop before the new Sullivan West High School is expected to open its doors in Sept. 2003.
In 1997, 116 local residents signed a petition calling for a reduction in posted speed limits in the area, adding that a four-way stop could help avoid unnecessary injuries, accidents or even save a life.
In Sept. 97, Sullivan County Legislator Chris Cunningham and former Town of Cochecton Supervisor Robert Grund discussed the matter with Peter Lilholt, Sullivan County commissioner of the division of public works (DPW).
Lilholt forwarded the request to John Brizzell, regional director of the NYS Department of Transportation (DOT), asking them to review the traffic light at this intersection and the possibility of converting it to a four-way stop.
According to officials at the local DPW, highway law gives control of an intersection to the highest municipal jurisdiction at that intersection. In the case of the Fosterdale blinking light, NYS controls the busy intersection: a flashing yellow caution light controls the approaches of NYS Route 17B and County Road 114, while a flashing red stop controls the cross-approaches of Route 52.
There are several businesses in proximity to the crossroads: a convenience store/gas station, a motel/used car lot, a resort complex, an antique shop and a seasonal hot dog stand. A few residences are nearby, as well.
According to the the NYS version of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) a method of standardizing all traffic control devices in the country there are several warrants for the installation of a traffic signal. If any one warrant (or a combination of a percentage of two warrants) are met, then a fully signalized traffic light could be installed at an intersection.
The warrants: mininum vehicular traffic, interruption of continuous flow, minimum pedestrian volume, school crossings, progressive movement, and accident experience.
After Salvatore Indelicato took over the reins as supervisor of the Town of Cochecton in 1998, he continued to pursue the issue with NYS DOT and local officials, writing letters to numerous elected representatives.
It has long been the goal of a number of Cochecton town officials and emergency service volunteer organizations, such as the local fire department and ambulance corps, that a standard red, yellow and green traffic control signal be installed at the Fosterdale intersection, he said in a letter to former Sen. Charles Cook and other elected representatives.
Anyone who has spent any time observing the intersection knows that it is an accident waiting to happen, he added. This is particularly true in the summer months when the traffic volume increases.
Indelicato cited potential increased traffic to/from the projected performing arts center at the Woodstock site and possible area casinos as additional reasons to upgrade the traffic controls. But that was before construction of a new Lake Huntington high school was started as a result of a recent three-way school district merger. (The new high school is being built on Route 52, less than three miles from the intersection.)
On Dec. 15, 1998, Robert A. MacMonigle responded to Indelicato, nixing the idea for a three-color traffic light.
It is difficult for us to install a traffic control device for a development that may or may not progress, or if completed may not generate the projected volumes, he said. The intersection does not meet any of the guidelines for the installation of a three-color traffic signal using existing conditions and information. We have not ruled out changes in control of the intersection but are postponing a final change.
In the interim, NYS DOT improved signing and pavement markings at the intersection, removed improper signs on the state right-of-way and cut down sight-obstructing brush and trees.
While I generally understand your departments position . . . the residents of this community perceive a severe hazard at this intersection and feel that only after one of them is severely maimed or killed that any action will be taken, replied the town supervisor.
In Jan. 2000, Indelicato contacted NYS DOT regional director Brizzell, citing increased heavy truck traffic as a result of nearby railroad bridge reconstruction and the inclusion of Route 97 in the states scenic byways program.
It is not an easy task or a cheap one, but the need for correction goes beyond what the statistics show, he said. Anyone who travels this area observes near-misses on a daily basis.
But the issue remained dormant until the matter of school bus safety was raised at a recent Sullivan West Central School District board of education meeting.
According to Jeff Nober, president of the local school board, once the new 550-student high school (grades 9-12) is finished, an estimated 20-24 school buses will use the Fosterdale intersection at least twice a day.
Board member Bill Erdman asked SWCSD Superintendent Michael Johndrow to investigate the issue. Johndrow then called Indelicato, and the idea of installing a three-color light at the Fosterdale four-way was back on the front burner.
According to the NYS DOT Region 9 Office of Traffic and Safety in Binghamton, the town supervisor and SWCSD board of education should request a re-study of the intersection in light of the school bus safety issue.
It warrants being reviewed again, said Dean Smith, assistant resident engineer for maintenance at the countys NYS DOT office.
There will be a lot more traffic there when the new school goes in buses and kids driving to school, he added.
Smith said several factors would be considered: traffic volume and direction, past history of accidents and cost feasibility.
All the agencies have been cooperative and sensitive to our situation, but we still dont have a light, said Indelicato.
Nober took a slightly harder stance on the situation.
It seems to take somebody getting killed at an intersection, he said. We dont want that to happen to one of our school kids.