Disagreements about the viability of a plan to install a traffic signal at the intersection of Ardsley and Fort Hill roads had Provident Design Engineering’s senior project manager Brian Dempsey defending his professional recommendation for the project during a community meeting held over Zoom on May 14.
In a tumultuous public meeting last September, most of the residents who commented expressed concern over a preliminary traffic study that proposed a traffic signal at the intersection. Five months later, Hawthorne-based Provident Design Engineering submitted a draft memorandum dated Feb. 21 that doubled down on installing a traffic signal at the intersection and reiterated that left turn lanes weren’t needed.
“We’ve asked for community input. There’s clearly strong opposition to this. The supervisor has said on numerous occasions he won’t do anything people don’t want,” said Edgemont Community Council Secretary Colin McCarthy. “The people that live there don’t want it and you can ignore that or not.”
According to the 105-page draft report released by the town in August 2019, installing a signal light at the four-lane intersection would significantly reduce delays and limit sightline obstructions associated with vegetation and fences.
The four-way stop currently at the intersection has caused traffic backups and driver confusion, as some motorists are unsure which vehicle has the right of way. The situation is exacerbated when a pedestrian is present — the lack of crosswalks and adequate sidewalks makes foot traffic at the intersection problematic.
“It’s a partnership approach. We definitely want to keep the community involved,” said Commissioner of Public Works Victor Carosi. “The town supervisor was very much involved in making sure that we’re not pushing something that isn’t accepted by the community, so we want to make sure that any solutions we have here are both data driven, and … accepted by the community.”
During the 20-minute presentation over Zoom, Dempsey showed videos that exemplified how the intersection’s four-way stop exacerbated driver and pedestrian confusion and why there have been more than 50 accidents at the site over the last three years.
“People aren’t obeying the rules of the four-way stop,” he said. “You do see there’s a lot of confusion.”
In videos recorded at the intersection, multiple buses and cars fail to obey the stop sign as they come up Ardsley Road from Central Avenue.
“They don’t stop and they rush through it and there’s a lot of close calls,” said Dempsey.
Dempsey also presented simulations to illustrate other options for the intersection, including a roundabout and signalization.
In the simulation for the signalized intersection, which accounted for trucks and drivers making left hand turns, backups were significantly reduced when compared to the four-way stop intersection in its current form.
“There will be some cars that will queue up at the light, and the actual timing and everything would have to be looked at eventually when the signal is actually designed. But we would go with a shorter traffic signal cycle so people are not waiting as long,” said Dempsey. “With the traffic signals, we put in pedestrian signals [and] make it much safer and easier for people to cross and let them feel more secure and know when to cross.”
At a previous meeting, some residents who live on Ardsley Road said they were concerned that a traffic signal would cause cars to block their driveways and that backing out to get onto the roadway would become more difficult.
Dempsey said although driveways would be blocked at times with the signal, driveways were already being blocked by traffic at the four-way stop.
A common point of debate between the consultant and community members has also been the distance of backups from the intersection to Central Avenue.
ECC Director Mark Lafayette and McCarthy each said cars have backed up as far as the Scarsdale Ford dealership on Central Avenue.
“There’s been times where, because of the traffic backed up from that four-way stop, cars can’t even cross the intersection at Central Avenue,” said Lafayette.
Dempsey said the consultant had been to the site multiple times and had observed long backups, but had never seen cars backing up that far.
According to Dempsey, whether the traffic is backing up to Central Avenue is “a technicality.” He added that a backup would have to include 70 cars on the 1,400-foot span from the Ardsley Road stop sign to Central Avenue.
“As the simulations showed, it does back up a good distance,” said Dempsey. “That’s one of the issues of the intersection that we’re trying to fix.”
Whether or not left turn lanes are needed has also been debated among community members and the consultant. Dempsey has said repeatedly that left turn lanes and signals wouldn’t be necessary at the intersection, and further evaluation of the value of a left turn arrow would be conducted once the signal is officially designed.
If left turn lanes were installed, Dempsey said that a “significant” amount of property would have to be taken from nearby houses in order to increase right of way. If a signal were installed without a left turn lane or signal, Dempsey said cars would be able to go around a vehicle that is stopped at the green light waiting to make a left.
“There are times where the left turn vehicle may not pull up far enough, but generally in this case they will and there will be enough room with the side streets there [so] the car can get around,” he said.
McCarthy said relying on cars to wiggle around cars waiting to make that left turn could be a safety concern, especially with crosswalks and pedestrians in the mix.
At a meeting last September, residents also recommended that the town increase sightlines at the intersection to see how that might affect the efficacy of the four-way stop. At the meeting on May 14, Dempsey said giving drivers too much sight distance could make them less likely to stop at the intersection because they don’t see any cars coming.
“I think common sense says start by getting people better vision,” said McCarthy. “Nobody ever got into an accident because they could see better.”
Carosi said the town had addressed increased sightlines at the intersection but the issue would be reviewed again. The town plans further discussions with the consultant and will hold another community meeting on the traffic signal.
“We’re not … saying this is going to solve all the traffic problems,” said Carosi. “What we’re trying to do is come up with a solution that offers an opportunity for improved safety at the intersection and also provides an opportunity for pedestrians.”