Hortontown Road crossing to close

(Original publication: July 10, 2004)

The state on Tuesday will close the Hortontown Road crossing on the Taconic State Parkway in Kent in an effort to prevent accidents at the intersection.

The move has town officials questioning whether the closing will hamper emergency services from quickly responding to the town's northwest corner. Some residents are divided over the possible effects, thinking it will result in less traffic going by their homes or lamenting the inconvenience.

"I really like it as a back road," said Judy Kramer of Hortontown Road, a narrow and twisting wooded byway. "Now, they make a little speedway out of it."

But for her husband, Jim Kramer, the state's decision comes down to a matter of minutes — both his and those of the Fire and Police departments. The couple — he drives to his job with an information technology company in Hawthorne and she drives to Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, where she teaches veterinarian technology — have lived on Hortontown Road for 15 years.

"I mind the closure. I have no access to any safety services. Somebody has just added a whole bunch of time (to their response) and my commute," Jim Kramer said.

Hortontown Road emerges from the woods on both sides of the parkway and crosses at a dip in the middle of a hill. With no median, drivers cannot stop halfway across — they must negotiate both the north- and southbound streams of traffic at the same time. A 5-year-old Bronx girl died last September after her family's Toyota sedan was struck by a dump truck trying to cross the parkway on Hortontown Road.

"It's a very dangerous intersection," said Laura Lemire, manager of the state Department of Transportation's Taconic State Parkway program. "It's definitely a safety issue."

The Kent intersection is the first at-grade crossing on the parkway to be shut in Putnam County. The other intersection at Pudding Street in Putnam Valley is more likely to be replaced with an overpass, Lemire said. In 2001, the DOT began closing such crossings in Dutchess County as part of a long-term safety plan for the road. Transportation officials worried that the crossings had become a hazard as the parkway, which was built early in the 20th century for leisurely driving, now handles large volumes of high-speed traffic.

With the crossing closed, drivers can only make a right from Hortontown Road onto the parkway. Those looking to cross over the highway or go the opposite way must head to the Miller Hill Road interchange in Dutchess County, about a mile away, or to the Route 301 interchange in Putnam Valley, which is almost two miles away. Drivers can then cross the parkway on an overpass, reversing their direction.

"You're sending people not very far out of the way, but it's a little inconvenient," Lemire said.

Lemire said emergency vehicles will follow the same routes as civilian drivers.

Kent police Lt. Alex DiVernieri said his department wrote the state DOT expressing "concerns about access to the other side of town." Kent Supervisor Bill Tulipane said blinking yellow lights and signs warning drivers of the crossing should be installed instead of closing the crossing.

"These people have a right to emergency services," Tulipane said. "People are driving too fast for the conditions. That's what's causing the accidents."


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Wednesday, January 5, 2005