Town officials edged close last week to fully allowing Stephen Hand’s Path in East Hampton to be turned into a major transit route. The modest two-lane road already serves as a bypass for drivers eager to skirt East Hampton Village, and for many, it is a faster or more direct route to and from their homes or workplaces in Northwest or Springs. This has led to backups at Cedar Street and hot tempers from residents who have to cope with speeding drivers and long waits to get safely out of their driveways.
The proposal on the table was for a roundabout where Stephen Hand’s Path, Long Lane, and Two Holes of Water Road come together. Without presenting any accident statistics publicly, the town planning director, Marguerite Wolffsohn, and Highway Superintendent Stephen Lynch told the East Hampton Town Board that the intersection was dangerous and that a roundabout, or traffic circle, would be preferable to a four-way stop or traffic light there. Ms. Wolffsohn noted that whether a roundabout would fit in with the area’s woods and preserved farmland depended on its design. But what it might look like is far from the only consideration, and probably of least concern.
Roundabouts do well at keeping vehicles moving, which is precisely what should not under any circumstances be encouraged along Stephen Hand’s Path. By encouraging fast traffic there, the town would only be making the route more attractive as a back-road alternative to tie-ups on Routes 27 and 114. Both 27 and 114 are engineered for heavy use; Stephen Hand’s, Long Lane, and Two Holes of Water Road are not. Having more drivers use these country roads would be a grievous mistake.
Roundabouts only speed vehicles along; stop signs and stoplights do not. Careful consideration of the consequences of any possible changes at the intersection should come first, before anyone in Town Hall favors one solution over another.