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Legislator: Traffic light coming to deadly Cutchogue limo crash intersection

A traffic light could be coming by fall to the deadly intersection in Cutchogue where a limo crash took the lives of four young women Saturday.

The intersection, located at Depot Lane and Route 48, has long been a source of concern to residents.

After a neighbor reached out to department of public works in May, discussions began, Krupski said. The department of public works had actually begun the process of collecting traffic data a year ago to justify the new light, Krupski said; a formula must be followed.

“We are planning on putting a light there. It’s in the planning stages,” Krupski said, adding that the light was initially slated to be installed this fall. He’s not yet sure if that process can be accelerated to get the light sooner.

In order to install the new light, higher, larger poles, to support the weight of the light, as well as higher wires, must be placed at the spot where currently, blinking red and yellow lights exist.

In order to do that, PSEG will have to turn off the power, and the initial thinking was that the work could be done in the fall, when less people were using air conditioners and other sources of electricity, Krupski said.

The new light was just discussed yesterday at a committee meeting, Krupski said, adding that whether or not a green arrow would be included with the light was still not clear.

The legislator added that traffic lights, while a step in the right direction, do not solve all safety concerns, as motorists continue to ignore basic rules of the road.

On Saturday night, Krupski said he saw two motorists run red lights and today, he was passed on the left across a double yellow line.

Krupski said the fatalities on Route 48 Saturday are not at all related to an earlier death last year in front of the Soundview and said “they were to different circumstances. Sometimes, accidents do happen.”

Distracted driving, he said, with motorists, texting, talking on their phones, eating, smoking, drinking, applying makeup and even eating have made roads treacherous.  “The white line is just a suggestion to some people. They’re all over it,” he said. A rumble strip on Route 25 added  last year has helped cars from drifting, Krupski said.

While some may try to blame wineries on accidents, Krupski, as well as Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley, agreed that most winery patrons are taking limos and buses, something that’s encouraged by the businesses to avoid accidents.

Both Krupski and Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said that the young women killed Saturday had done the right thing and hired a limo so they could safely enjoy a day out on the North Fork.

“They were acting responsibly,” Spota said at a press conference yesterday.

Krupski said his own daughter had attended a bachelorette party recently in a limo. “You think your child is safe because they’re not driving. They’re doing the responsible thing and staying off the road.” The four young women had also done the right thing when tragedy struck, he said. “It’s very sad.”

Neighbor Susan Tyler said the accident at the intersection was one neighbors have been dreading for years.

“It was only a matter of time,” she said. “We’ve been saying for years that it would happen, but still hoped that it never would, and now it has.”

Flatley, at the accident site Saturday, agreed. “This is what we’ve always been afraid of.”

The limo driver, he said, tried to make a U turn and head west on Route 48 when he was struck by a pickup. “It was a dangerous move,” he said.

Limos making such turns take up two to three lanes and pose a  danger on area roads, Flatley said, one reason why the town has been cautioning against potential tragedy on Route 48 for years.

Steve Romeo, of Peconic, was charged with driving while intoxicated after the crash.

Southold has been in the midst of a transformation from a sleepy town to a bustling tourist destination, with throngs of visitors crowding roads not built to handle such volume.

The influx of tourists heading to wineries and other attractions has brought new issues to the forefront, including the divide over short term rentals — with neighbors crying out against noise, traffic, and a revolving door of strangers in their communities — as well as a flood of race and bike events that led to the town board placing a ban on race and bike events on town roads from June 1 to November 1.

Supervisor Scott Russell agreed all factors converged to create what ultimately became a deadly accident.

While he said he cannot comment on the specific accident until the investigation is complete, he said, “These are important questions and it’s a discussion we need to have.”

However, Russell said, “I cannot speculate as to what the ‘solution’ is or, if there even is one. Generally, the increase in activity and the increase in traffic we see is the result of years of marketing this region. Those efforts worked and now we wrestle with how to accommodate this activity in a town that simply  doesn’t have the infrastructure to support it. There are no easy solutions here.”

And, he said, the community mourns. “This town is still reeling from a serious tragedy.”