Home News Local News Legislator: After tragedy, County Road 48 solution in the works by 2016

Legislator: After tragedy, County Road 48 solution in the works by 2016

One day after longtime environmental advocate Howard Meinke was hit by a car and killed on a dangerous stretch of Route 48 in Greenport, Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski said a solution to enhancing safety on the road will be coming in 2016.

Meinke, 86, died on Thursday after being hit by a car while walking to the overflow parking lot across the road from the Soundview Restaurant, where he’d attended an Eastern Long Island Hospital spaghetti night fundraiser with his wife Margaret. 

Krupski said on Friday that beginning in 2016, the road will be moved south to allow for all all parking to take place on the north side of the road, meaning no pedestrians would have to cross the busy county road on foot to get to their cars.

Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said since 1999, there have been three fatalities in that spot. And, on the stretch of road extending from Albertson Lane to Chapel Lane, there have been 276 accidents and 76 injuries reported, he said.

But despite the fatalities and accidents, the speed limit on Route 48 remains 50 miles per hour, the same as it was in 2007. And although a crosswalk was created on the road, with two bright yellow pedestrian crosswalk signs, there is no blinking light or traffic signal at the location.

Lack of government action to change the dangerous situation has left some residents asking how much tragedy will need to unfold before something is done. Krupski said the decision to move the road was made last year.

According to Southold Town police, Eric Melrose, 41, of Greenport, was driving east on County Road 48 when he struck Meinke, who was attempting to cross the road in a marked crosswalk. Meinke has used a cane in recent months.

Meinke is not the first to die on that stretch of road. In 2007, Robert Haase, owner of Orient by the Sea, lost his father George at the spot after they’d been enjoying dinner together at the Soundview. And in 2009, a man died aftter he’d parked in the lot across the road, gone into the restaurant to use the phone, and was hit residents recalled.

“Something should be done,” Haase said Friday morning, after hearing the tragic news. “Something should have been done a long time ago.” Haase added that he felt terribly for Rachel Murphy, owner of the Soundview Restaurant and hotel. “It’s not her fault. She’s been on the phone for years, saying something should be done.”

Suggestions, he said, could include a lower rate of speed at the location or flashing yellow lights.

Krupski said Friday morning that he’d just spoken with Meinke last night, at the fundraiser at Soundview, but had left a little while before the accident. “You just never know,” he said, shocked by the news.

The dangerous road conditions on Route 48 in that location have been a subject of concern for the county for years, Krupski said, adding that he’d met with William Hillman, chief engineer for the Suffolk County Department of Works, last year to discuss solutions.

“That section of road, the odd part is that normally, people want to see a road straightened because of dangerous turns. In this case, we’d like to try to move the road to the south to get it further away from the restaurant,” Krupski said.

And, while there is currently a crosswalk, Krupski said “crosswalks don’t necessarily provide safety.”

Krupski, who was headed to Yaphank Friday to discuss the plans after Thursday’s accident, said that the project would mean “a major reconstruction job. It’s not like putting up a sign. But this is something that needs to be addressed.”

Residents, shocked and saddened by Meinke’s death, agree. “That’s such a bad spot,” said Susan Tyler, of Cutchogue. “They put down the bolder crosswalk and put in the bright crosswalk signs after the last vehicle versus pedestrian fatality there, but the speed limit is still 50 miles per hour. It boggles my mind. I drive through there at least twice a week and instinctively slow down, because it just feels like I’m going too fast. . . It’s terrible.”

Added CJ Blaise Haase, on the SoutholdLocal Facebook page, “How many deaths at this spot need to happen, before something is done? This is horrific, and never should have happened.”