Jericho Turnpike used to be a quiet country road traveled by few cars at slow speeds.
By simple observation, it's clear that is no longer the case. It is a busy roadway with a constant flow of vehicles traveling at high speeds. And, while for some it's simply a nuisance, for others it could be a matter of life and death.
Residents of Cold Spring Hills whose homes border Jericho Turnpike, also known as State Route 25, between East Gate and West Gate near Oheka Castle say they are at an increased risk as several severe and fatal accidents have occurred within feet of their backyards.
One 30-year resident of Colonial Drive who asked that her name not be used said that she and her neighbors have been requesting protection from the dangers of Jericho Turnpike for years.
"And it hasn't gotten any better," she said. "Our safety and health are in jeopardy. Besides cars and trucks speeding by and severe accidents occurring, trucks often sit idle in front of the parking lots sometimes for hours and truck exhaust also seems to ride the top of our fences."
Another who purchased her Colonial Drive home much more recently, said she first became all too aware of this last spring while in her backyard with her husband and then 1-year-old son. She said a multi-car collision occurred on Jericho Turnpike with at least one vehicle hitting the fence outside their home, knocking over a utility pole.
The family called the experience "horrifying." She sprung into action sending a letter to the Cold Spring Hills Civic Association, who wrote to Town of Huntington Highway Superintendent William Naughton on her behalf.
They wrote, "These ground level residences along Jericho Turnpike in Huntington seem to be in a unique situation and the installation of guard rails along this brief stretch will not pose a precedent for wide-spread requests. Just west of this location, along Jericho Turnpike in Woodbury and Syosset all the way to Route 106/107, guide rails protect the residents and businesses along this stretch of road."
Naughton came to the Cold Spring Hills community personally and following his inspection determined that extra safety precautions were necessary and reached out to Subi Chakraboti of the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT).
Prior to Naughtons 2010 inspection, in 2008 the Cold Spring Hills Civic Association met with DOT representatives and Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone to discuss how the state could protect homes whose backyards are ground-level with Jericho Turnpike from the severe danger of speeding cars and trucks entering their backyards.
According to an email from the DOT, an "accident analysis, guide-rail warrant analysis and field observations of the area was conducted." In response to requests, the DOT installed "chevrons" along this stretch but the Cold Spring Hills Civic Association declined an offer to install "delineators."
The Board stated "these actions do not adequately address the urgently-needed protection against speeding cars and/or trucks driving into the backyards of our properties."
For the accident analysis, the DOT said it reviewed the most recent data available from the Department of Motor Vehicles but found that it "did not show a pattern of accidents that would be correctable or have the severity lessened by the installation of a guide rail."
The resident who has lived on Colonial for just over a year said she agrees with the DOT that a guide rail is not sufficient.
"We need a 10- to 12-foot safety and sound barrier to protect cars and trucks from plowing into our yards, a guide rail and evergreens to deal with the pollution from vehicle exhausts," she said.
Similar to Route 231 south of the Southern State Parkway to Sunrise Highway, residents feel they need elected officials funding is earmarked for this project in the district.
A letter from the DOT said that the state's policy is to conduct noise studies and evaluate noise abatement only as part of a major construction or reconstruction projects that "proposes to physically alter an existing highway in a manner that will significantly change either the horizontal or vertical alignment or increase the number of through-traffic lanes."
Unfortunately, the letter said, the DOT policy is that a noise study for "retrofit" noise abatement project will not be considered without separate additional funding provided by the New York State Legislature for this purpose, and no funding for this purpose has been considered for appropriation. At this time, a noise study cannot be considered unless a qualifying major construction project is proposed or the state legislature allocates funding for this purpose.
So, while waiting for the civic association to reach out to elected officials on their behalf, neighbors whose homes border Jericho Turnpike have reached out to State Senator Carl Marcellino, R-Oyster Bay, State Assemblyman James D. Conte, R-Huntington, and county legislators Lou D'Amaro, D-North Babylon, and Jon Cooper, D-Lloyd Harbor, and are waiting to hear back.
The DOT also found in its guide-rail analysis, done following "nationally recognized standards" including determining whether the roadway has slopes on embankments, areas of assembly nearby or on the outside of sharp curves, among other factors, and determined that "based on existing conditions, installation of a guide rail was not appropriate."
The DOT also said Naughton's opinion on the need for a guide rail "is not appropriate and that it did install delineators and chevrons on the north side of Jericho to better guide motorists along the roadway."
Meanwhile, the accidents continue.
On April 12, at 8:50 a.m. a man was killed when he was hit on the passenger side of his vehicle as he tried to make a left-hand turn from Jericho Turnpike onto Chickory Lane, which is south of Jericho, in close vicinity to 22 Colonial Drive.
On Tuesday, May 25, at approximately 1:30 p.m. an automobile accident occurred on Jericho Turnpike in close vicinity to the home at 16 Colonial Drive.
On May 27, at 1 p.m. a severe head-on collision occurred on Jericho Turnpike when a man traveling eastbound crossed into oncoming traffic, only feet away from the backyard of 34 Colonial Drive. Traffic on Jericho Turnpike was re-routed through Colonial Drive to West Gate Drive for more than four hours. The driver was charged for driving under the influence.
Most recently, on June 10, at approximately 2:30 p.m. an automobile accident occurred on Jericho Turnpike toppling a utility pole on the south side of the road, affecting neighbors whose homes border Jericho Turnpike within feet of the back yards of both 34 and 36 Colonial Drive.
"We need protection," the newer resident said. "Plain and simple. Borrowing a quote from Gina Russon, an advocate for the Wantagh State Parkway guard rail, 'Too often tragedy and sacrifice are required to accomplish what logic and forethought could not." Residents say they hope and pray that a tragedy will not need to occur in order for their voices to be heard!'"