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Advocates call for Route 260 to be remodeled

by Kari Ashworth - News Editor
Tue, Oct 29th 2019 08:35 pm
Clarkson Town Supervisor Christa Filipowicz wrote a joint letter with the towns of Hamlin and Clarkson appealing to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to make Route 260 safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
Clarkson Town Supervisor Christa Filipowicz wrote a joint letter with the towns of Hamlin and Clarkson appealing to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to make Route 260 safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

Local politicians and citizens are working to make Route 260 safer for cyclists following the death of Brockport elementary school teacher Carolyn “Carrie” Ray on Sunday, Oct. 6.

Three municipalities — Clarkson, Hamlin and Sweden — wrote a letter to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) in order to enact change. Clarkson Town Supervisor Christa Filipowicz spearheaded the letter and presented it to the other supervisors and the highway superintendents. 

Hamlin Town Supervisor Eric Peters said the letter encompassed a few different requests, including the reduction of the speed limit and making the side shoulder wider. 

“It’s a request to make the road safer,” Peters said. “When they repaved [the road], it kind of shrunk the shoulders down. It’s just difficult for anybody other than a vehicle to be on there. There’s not much shoulder room, so even if a vehicle’s broken down, it’d still have a hard time pulling off the side of the road so that there’s not much space there, and there’s a fair amount of people that use it for cycling and walking.”

Will Haines, a Clarkson cyclist who has dedicated a website and Twitter account to fixing Route 260, explained the shoulder is only three inches wider than a standard adult bicycle’s handlebars. 

“At the location where Carrie Ray was killed by a driver ‘who didn’t see her,’ the shoulder measures just 22 inches wide,” Haines wrote. “A standard adult bicycle has 19-inch width handlebars.”

Filipowicz said she had driven the road a couple of times since the accident in order to understand how Ray’s death could have happened. With the small shoulder and the 55 mph speed limit, many have complained about the safety of the road for pedestrians and cyclists.

“I’ve spoken to residents all along Sweden Walker [Road] who have complained about the speed limit being 55 mph,” Filipowicz said. “They would like it reduced to 40 mph like Lake Road. With the 531 extension completed, much of the northbound traffic exits at Sweden Walker Road and it has become increasingly busy.”

According to Haines, reducing the speed limit on this strip will only add two minutes to a driver’s commute. 

“At the very least, a reduction of the speed limit on Route 260 would allow motorists more time to identify cyclists in front of them, more time to react; as well as allow cyclists more time to respond and get out of harm’s way,” Haines wrote. “Increasing the shoulder width would give cyclists more room on the road for safe passage. For this five mile stretch of road between Ridge Road and Roosevelt [Highway], a decrease in the speed limit from 55 mph to 40 mph would only increase drive time by two minutes. I think that’s a reasonable amount of time motorists can ‘sacrifice’ to improve safety here.”

Peters also agreed a decrease in speed will improve overall safety, citing how high speeds often end poorly.

“There are no minor accidents; I guess that’s because all the roads there are high speed roads, they’re 50, 55 miles an hour,” Peters said. “So when something happens, it’s serious; it can be a very, very serious accident. There’s no minor fender benders like you would get in the city where somebody just, you know, 25 miles an hour you bump into each other. And out here it’s serious injuries or fatalities.”

Peters explained the NYSDOT likely just received the letter and will not act in haste when making its decision. Since Route 260 is a state road, only the state can make changes to it. Peters, Filipowicz and Haines hope the NYSDOT come to the same conclusion they have. 

“We’re relying on the fact that there’s actually three towns that are saying, ‘hey, look, you need to do something here’ to put some importance to it versus, you know it’s unfortunate, but one citizen writes a letter, but at times it doesn’t get as much attention as it should,” Peters said. “So we’re hoping that the weight of three towns saying ‘hey, you need to actually do something here’ will get them to move forward. And unfortunately they have to follow their procedures, you know they’ll do a study to look at it and so forth. And hopefully they’ll come up with the same conclusion that we did.”

In the meantime, Clarkson, Hamlin and Sweden’s leadership will continue to appeal to the NYSDOT for safer roads.

“This is the NYSDOT that must act,” Filipowicz said. “All we can do is advocate for our residents and we will continue to do that.”

 

Photo of the Week

Taken by Mathieu Starke, staff photographer

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