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"This was news to us," Miller said. "The letter is very short. It just says they studied it and they certainly didn't flesh out why they're doing it. The four way stop will eventually be a three-color traffic signal at 34B and Triphammer Road. Apparently it was Mr. Sidel. He petitions for reductions of speed limits all over town. Apparently he petitioned the State in 2014. They came out and did a study, and said it was a good idea. They didn't say when, but they will be doing that. We did not petition the State for this."
DOT Public Information Officer for Region 3 Gene Cilento says the Traffic Group made the decision based on a traffic safety study that was completed about a month ago.
"It noted delays, especially in the afternoon peak hour, and a pattern of right angle accidents," he says. "As a result, we plan to install the new traffic signal and an additional “STOP AHEAD” sign on the northbound intersection approach. We’ll also be replacing some other signs due to damage or loss of reflectivity."
At first board members discussed sending a letter of protest.
"If the Board is not in favor of this the least we should do is send a letter of protest," said Councilman Ed LaVigne. "The other thing we should do is call our state senator and say we're very concerned about this. If the Board decides that it's not in favor of this."
But the decision was made to get more information first, which may or may not result in a protest. Lansing Planning Consultant Michael Long met with Miller, then reached out to the DOT. He says that he and Miller will meet with the DOT Regional Traffic Engineer within the next two to three weeks to discuss Lansing highway issues in general.
"They've asked me to identify the issues the Town is interested in discussing," Long says. "They will come prepared to discuss those issues. The traffic light will, hopefully, be on the list of candidate projects. We're going to look at what kind of DOT resources are being allocated to the Town in terms of highway design. I know there was some traffic inventory work being done at the intersection of 34 and 34B right near Rogue's Harbor. And they've changed the speed limits on several of the roads in the area. So we're going to come up with a laundry list of issues to discuss with DOT."
Long says town officials want to identify what issues the DOT is investigating in Lansing, and to make sure the Town has input into the process and have town concerns evaluated as part of the process.
"I will tell you that the traffic numbers I've seen so far in Lansing don't show a very high volume of traffic," Long says. "We probably have twice the volume of traffic in front of my house in Auburn. It's not a high level of traffic, but to people who live here it's probably increased over the years. I'm surprised they didn't reach out to the Town and have a conversation about the options, and invite some participation. That's part of what the meeting is for."
When completed, the light will be the second red-yellow-green traffic signal in the Town of Lansing outside of the Village. According to a 2012 County traffic study the corner of Triphammer Road and 34B is the second busiest intersection in Lansing, with 4821 vehicles passing through the four-way stop with its flashing red light on a typical day. That number is likely larger today, in part because of businesses at that intersection, to the north and south of 34B.
Miller said DOT officials have spoken in the past about a possible roundabout in that area, but was concerned about how big it would have to be, because of the big trucks that regularly pass through that intersection. Long says they can be a better solution than traffic lights.
"Whether the Town thinks it's a great idea or not, traffic signals are on their way out," Long says. "A lot of communities are going to round-abouts."
Town Attorney Guy Krogh noted last month that the DOT has considered eliminating the curve on 34 that bypasses the intersection where the Scoops ice cream stand is. He says replacing it with a straight four-way intersection has been considered many times in the past.
"Rumor says they're considering it once again," Krogh said. "If they were going to eliminate the curve on 34 heading towards Auburn and make all traffic flow into a four-way intersection then that light would arguably make sense, because it would be in furtherance of that plan."
Long says the Triphammer/34B crossing is one of the most critical intersections in the town, and elimination of the curve may be part of a solution that will mitigate traffic there..
"I think that's one of the options that could be considered," he says. "The DOT will do a traffic warrant study. The traffic warrant will identify what the volume of traffic is, what typical speeds are, what they anticipate time frames for the worst conditions would exhibit."
But Cilento reports that eliminating the curve is not under consideration, at least right now. He says the decision to install the 3-color signal is based on a study conducted by DOT's Traffic Group to improve safety and mobility at the intersection. Cilento also says that a schedule for the project has not yet been set.
"We’re developing a plan and will know more about the schedule when that’s done," he says. "We will work with the Town of Lansing during the design process."
Long says town officials have become more proactive about traffic issues that impact Lansing. He and Miller have already met with Ithaca/Tompkins County Transportation Council Executive Director Fernando de Aragón to make sure that projects that impact Lansing are considered as part of the council's five year plan. Long stresses the importance of that because Lansing has the greatest growth in the County. He adds that the traffic light issue has created a chance for the Town to have more input into DOT decisions that impact Lansing.
"At this point we're just trying to identify what the issues are. It's a state road, and the State has the highest priority in terms of what they're looking at. The Town Board certainly has an interest in traffic, and it's a good opportunity to establish a good working relationship with DOT so we're part of the solutions."