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Following hit-and-run, residents call for crosswalk improvement

Flanders Road crosswalk

A pedestrian was struck in a hit-and-run on Flanders Road Sunday at the same crosswalk where a fatal crash took place in 2014.

Orlando Xujur, 40, of Riverside was struck by a SUV in the crosswalk near Vail Avenue in Riverside shortly before 6:10 p.m., Southampton Town police said. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital and was listed in serious condition as of Tuesday, hospital officials confirmed.

The passenger side of the SUV, which was last seen traveling east on Flanders Road, sustained front-end damage, police said. No other information about the investigation was available by presstime. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Southampton police at 631-702-2230.

The latest crash has raised concern about the crosswalk’s safety and debate about which agency or municipality would be responsible for improving lighting in the area.

Within a year of the 2014 crash — in which another pedestrian also suffered critical injuries — the state Department of Transportation completed a repaving project that had already been in the works to improve the weather-damaged roadway.

That roadwork included adding fresh crosswalk markings at the spot where the crash occurred.

Despite those improvements, residents describe the roadway as dangerous and are calling for the crosswalk to be lighted or relocated.

Ron Fisher, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, met with Southampton Town Council members John Bouvier and Christine Scalera and other town officials Monday morning to advocate for immediate action.

“In my opinion, it’s not in a good spot because you wouldn’t expect a crosswalk to be there,” he said, referring to how it doesn’t link different streets, which is how crosswalks are typically used. “It’s also one of the darkest spots on Flanders Road.”

Mr. Fisher said he believes a short-term solution is to install a light on the utility pole. Eventually, he added, the crosswalk should be relocated or a lighted crosswalk needs to be constructed.

“I hope, after some attention is brought to this, all public officials step up and improve pedestrian safety there,” Mr. Fisher said.

State DOT spokeswoman Eileen Peters said Tuesday the department hadn’t received inquiries about the crosswalk’s safety or lighting in that area. The state DOT launched a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan this past summer, under which all crosswalks will be enhanced to improve safety, she said.

The Flanders Road crosswalk was created in 1994 after Goodwill AME Zion Church requested it in order to enhance safety for members who walk to church, Ms. Peters said.

Pedestrian crossing signs mark each side of the crosswalk, but there are no “Pedestrians Crossing Ahead” signs on the roadway itself and the speed limit at that location is 40 mph.

Two entities have different types of jurisdiction over Flanders Road, also known as New York State Route 24.

The state DOT oversees most of its infrastructure, including paving, traffic signals, sidewalks and crosswalks. Southampton Town is responsible for street lighting.

When asked about the lack of lighting in the area, Mr. Bouvier said the town is looking to improve safety at the crosswalk and is gathering information to determine the best solution. Ms. Scalera didn’t return a message seeking comment.

Tom Neely, Southampton Town’s director of public transportation and traffic safety, said he couldn’t comment on the crosswalk because it’s the state’s jurisdiction.

He deferred comment to Southampton Town parks director Kristen Doulos, whose department handles street lighting. She also didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.

The crosswalk is heavily used by residents and Suffolk County transit riders. There are county-managed bus shelters on either side of the road near the crosswalk.

While there are street lights on one side of the road, residents and elected officials agree areas around the bus shelters and crosswalk are very dark at night.

When asked about the lack of lighting, county Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), who has been at the forefront of installing and improving bus shelters, said he would look into the requirements for bus shelter lighting.

Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac), who recently sponsored a resolution to create a working group to evaluate county transportation services, described the area where crashes have occurred as “terribly dangerous” but said the county is constrained from adding any lighting there — even at its own bus shelters.

“The bottom line,” she explained, “is it has to come from DOT. We want to be helpful, but we’re limited.”

Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) said that if there’s a consensus within the community that a lighted crosswalk is needed, he believes the town should take the initiative to have the work done.

“Where lighted crosswalks have occurred, local governments have taken the initiative — they’ve done the installation and gotten the permit from the state,” Mr. Thiele said. “They’ve made those requests, we’ve gotten the state to issue the permits and, in those cases, we provided the funding or matched funds. Sen. Ken LaValle and I have both been able to obtain funds to do this, but, in every case, it’s been the town or village that had to take the initiative.”

Former FRNCA president and current civic member Vince Taldone applauded Mr. Thiele’s effort to have the state DOT improve Flanders Road, especially at the Long Neck Boulevard and Oak Avenue intersections. He believes the town should use monies from its lighting district budget to improve the crosswalk.

“The least they could do is light it up so that the drivers are alerted there’s someone in the crosswalk,” he said. “We pay for it [the lighting district]. It’s paid for by me on my tax bill and I’m saying, ‘Please do it!’ ”

The fatal 2014 crash killed 42-year-old Fidel Ortiz of Riverside, who was struck by a Chevy Monte Carlo. Another pedestrian was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital in critical condition after that crash.

Flanders Road was they only local roadway included in a $100 million state resurfacing project to improve roads that had suffered the most damage during the 2013 winter.

The $5.2 million construction project, which involved seven miles of Flanders Road, was completed last year.

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The fatal accident scene on Flanders Road in 2014. (File photo: Jen Nuzzo)
The fatal accident scene on Flanders Road in 2014. (File photo: Jen Nuzzo)