Potholes Spark Call for Action On Route 24

Do you think potholes are worse than usual, and more dangerous, this winter?

Over a month after an accident that killed Barbara Tocci, a local civic organization is calling for action and awareness of potholes and other safety issues on New York State Route 24.

Family and friends have said potholes could be to blame for the tragic accident that took Tocci's life.

At a recent meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, Vince Taldone, president of the group, gave an update of a conversation he'd had with New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele's office.

Thiele and New York State Senator Ken LaValle, he said, have written to the New York State Department of Transportation about conditions on the road – and FRNCA has some very long term improvements in mind, he said.

FRNCA had already met with the NYSDOT in 2012 to discuss ways to mitigate and reduce traffic issues on the road and enhance bicycle and foot traffic safety, Taldone said.

"The road surface issue is really a very recent issue," Taldone said. "It seems that the road has been deteriorating faster than its age would suggest. I do not know if it is the bitter cold or just the impact of growing volumes of traffic but that road is crumbling."

Lighting, sidewalk conditions, a "nasty center turning lane" that Taldone said has been dubbed "the suicide lane," as well as the basic design of the road, including lane widths, all need to be addressed, he said.

Conditions on the road, some feel, may have led to individuals being hit by cars on Route 24, Taldone said.

Meanwhile, Tocci's family has said potholes on Route 24 could have factored in to her death.

"I was going down that road three days before that and thinking, 'This road is a disaster. Someone is going to die on this road,'" said Paul Tocci, Barbara's brother.

"Barbara was a friend of mine," said Jim Dreeben. "If a pothole was the reason for the accident, someone was not doing his job.  Flanders Road has never been so full of big potholes and they should have been fixed weeks ago. I drive that road every day and have hit the potholes in the same area where Barbara was killed. Luckily, I either saw them and slowed down or hit them and was lucky I did not blow a tire."   

When reached for comment last month, the New York State Department of Transportation responded, "We at NYSDOT are saddened by the news of the fatality on New York State Route 24," said spokesperson Eileen Peters. "The police should be contacted for information as they are in charge of the investigation. NYSDOT will coordinate with the police, review their reports and take appropriate action."

Peters said motorists call 1-800 POTHOLE to report a pothole on state roadways and NYSDOT crews will repair them as soon as possible, usually within 48 hours, weather permitting. 

"Our NYSDOT Long Island maintenance crews are on the alert and have been patrolling state roadways for potholes and repairing them all over Long Island each day as the weather permits. The relatively early cold temperatures and the fluctuating hot-cold temperatures so far this winter have caused more frequent freeze/thaw cycles, which is what creates potholes," Peters said.

To date, NYSDOT Region 10 Long Island has spent over 40 percent more for pothole repairs this year than during the same time period last winter season, Peters said. 

In a comparison of asphalt usage in NYSDOT Region 10 Long Island for the same period, October 11 through January 2: In 2012-2013 the region used approximately 115 tons of asphalt to repair potholes. In 2013-2014 the region used approximately 285 tons of asphalt to repair pot holes.  

"Keeping the roads safe is NYSDOT’s highest priority so any and all feasible measures are be taken to continue pothole repairs," she said.

She added that it's not possible to repave roads during the winter or snow season.

Police did not immediately specify whether or not potholes may have played a part in the accident; police said it has not yet been determined.

According to Southampton Town police detectives, authorities are investigating the crash, which took the life of Tocci, 47. Tocci was originally from the Flanders area and went to Riverhead High School.

Police said the accident took place near the intersection of Spinney Road and Flanders Road between a PSEG Truck and a Ford Explorer. 

Michael Pepe, 53, was driving a 2005 GMC utility truck southbound on Flanders Road when his vehicle crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic and hit Tocci's 2000 Ford Explorer, which was going north, head-on, police said.

Southampton Town police officers and detectives, Flanders Fire Department and Flanders Northampton Volunteer Ambulance responded to the scene. 

Tocci was pronounced dead at the scene. She  was extricated from her vehicle by the Flanders Fire Department and transported to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office. 

The PSEG driver, Michael Pepe, 53, of Bayport, was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center by Flanders Northampton Volunteer Ambulance, where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

The New York State Police Forensic ID & Collision Reconstruction Unit responded to assist in the investigation of the accident scene. 

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s vehicular crimes bureau also responded and the New York State Department of Transportation responded to repair damage to the roadway. 

The Ford Explorer and GMC utility vehicle were impounded for a safety check and further investigation. 

No criminal charges are expected to be filed.

The accident was the second death in one day on area roads. In Laurel, a male jogger was killed during a two car accident. 

leslie February 23, 2014 at 09:03 AM
If they did the roads the right way this would not be happening.. The towns to save money only put down 1 and a half inches of asphalt instead of 3 inches like it should be.. REDO the whole road the right way.. The only time they do anything is Election time (if anyone noticed) and when we have snow. So if they did the roads the right way believe me it would be Safer. How many more lives and cars have to be ruined before the towns do the right thing..
jks February 23, 2014 at 09:45 AM
Rte 24 is not a town road, it is a state road, they are responsible for maintenance and repair.
BVM February 23, 2014 at 09:42 PM
This road has been a mess for many weeks. It is a disgrace that the numerous potholes on this road have not been repaired. I have driven for over 40 years and this has to be the worse road I have ever seen on Long Island. Shame on the people responsible to keep this road in good condition! They are not doing the job they are being paid for!


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