The concern about traffic along the Rt. 59 corridor, a concern that we have highlighted as a big problem for planners considering the merits of the proposed Wal-Mart in Monsey, is once again spotlighted in today's Journal News. This time it is the intersection at Rt. 306 and the concerns are very real. In 2004 there were 23 accidents resulting in six injuries at Maple Avenue with one injury at Rt.306 and Rt.59.
In order to address the seriousness of this traffic threat the Town of Ramapo is planning to go forward with a $1.2 million "traffic safety project" that looks to reduce pedestrian accidents that are particularly present in this "walking community." As Ramapo Supervisor Christopher Lawrence told the Journal News, "We have a lot of kids in the area. Mothers are pushing kids in baby carriages and they fight with traffic on Rt.59."
The problem is that there are no real sidewalks in the area and pedestrians are forced to walk on the street. "That, Ramapo Detective Sgt. John Lynch said, can be a deadly combination." A 67 year old Monsey women was killed by a cement truck as she tried to cross 59 last year.
As everyone quoted in the story pointed out, "The traffic is a nightmare." And now just when you think things couldn't get worse, along comes Wal-Mart to add to the 21,000 cars that travel through the 59-306 intersection.
All of which adds to everything that we have been warning Monsey about. As our traffic consultant Brian Ketcham tells us time and time again there are "social costs" to the project that never get considered. Among these costs is the inevitable increase in the number of pedestrian accidents, and yes fatalities, that will occur when you add thousands of new vehicle trips every day. These are costs that are borne, not by Wal-Mart, but by the good citizens of Monsey.
The Ramapo Planning Board is scheduled to certify the Wal-Mart traffic study and EIS next Tuesday. Our sources are telling us that the Board is going to allow the developer to do the minimal "scope of work." If so, this will be a great disservice to all of the communities that are going to bear the brunt of the Wal-Mart impact. It might also very well result in a lawsuit against the town.
This can all be avoided if Supervisor Lawrence breaks his inexplicable silence on the issue and instructs his planners to insist that this project undergo the strictest review. As the paper points out, ..."with a Wal-Mart Supercenter...both pedestrian and vehicular traffic are likely to increase."
The current proposals are like trying to bandaid a shotgun wound. As one small businessman said, commenting on the already nightmarish conditions on the corridor, "I have no idea how they can solve this problem...I don't know what they can do. This is a walking community. There is a large Jewish population. Friday night to Saturday night; they only walk."