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Rallying for better road safety in Atlantic Beach

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At the intersection of Albany Boulevard and Park Street, the gateway to Atlantic Beach immediately off the bridge, nearly 70 village residents, elected officials and others showed their support for reducing the frequency that vehicles speed through the South Shore municipality.

Holding signs, that read “What’s the Hurry???” and other anti-speeding slogans, community members, including County Legislator Denise Ford (R-Long Beach), State Assemblywoman Melissa Miller  (R-Atlantic Beach) and Mayor George Pappas, spoke through their masks and the requisite six-foot distance about the problem on Sunday. Jane Martin-Lavaud, who heads the group Families for Safe Streets, also attended the rally. A speeding driver in Brooklyn killed her oldest daughter Leonora in 2013.

Rally organizer Kevin Kelley said residents are angry that despite having lowered the speed limit from 30 mph to 25 on the two-way four-lane 1.5-mile stretch of Park Street from the Atlantic Beach Bridge to Long Beach speeding is a common occurrence.

“A Nassau County police officer told the group that vehicles regularly travel 60 to 65 mph along the roadway,” Kelley said. According to village officials, the number of speeding tickets written has declined drastically from 400 per month three decades ago to 40 a month now.

Kelley said the consensus of residents and officials is to synchronize the traffic signals. After sending an email to the county executive’s office he received an emailed response on Nov. 5 from spokeswoman Karen Contino. “The Department of Public Works is dedicated to improving safety throughout its network of roadways,” she wrote. “While local municipalities have sole jurisdiction for changing speed limits on county roads, it is general practice to set speed limits at a reasonable rate for the geometry and character of the roadway. The artificial lowering of speed limits does little to impact driver speed as drivers travel at a speed they feel comfortable. Regular enforcement of speed limits is an effective measure to control travel speeds.

“With regard to the suggestion to stagger traffic signal timing through the corridor, the federal manual on uniform traffic control devices should not be used for speed control,” she added. “The improper use of traffic signals can result [in] traffic diversion (to local streets) and a significant increase in the frequency of collisions (especially rear-end collisions.”

Contino also noted that a DPW proposed a lane reduction plan for Park Street in conjunction with a post-Hurricane Sandy project was vigorously opposed by residents was eliminated from consideration. “Given these challenging times, the county continues to pursue state and federal funding to implement the complete Park/Beech Street Complete Streets Project,” she stated in the email. Contino did not respond to follow up questions as of press time.

At the Sunday rally, Ford said that it is anticipated that County Executive Laura Curran will unveil a redesign of Park Street in the near future that would narrow the roadway with a two-way bicycle lane and add a traffic signal by Capri Drive near the Water Club houses in East Atlantic Beach and include supplemental drainage to reduce flooding that was part of the original storm recovery plan.

Kelley said he thought the rally was a success and will take a patient approach to getting the speeding problem resolved saying that he would like to see it happen “ before the beach season begins again,” next year.