Squealing brakes, speeding motorists and frequent near misses at the busiest intersection in New Windsor might mean the town will get its only traffic light.
The town Planning Commission has recommended installation of a signal at Church and High streets before the intersection is the scene of a serious accident, said Robert D. Dixon, commission chairman.
"New development on both ends of town have increased traffic at the intersection, which was already used a great deal," Mr. Dixon said.
About 50 years ago, the intersection did have a light, but it served no purpose, said several longtime residents.
"I don't know why we had a light," said Councilman James Carlisle. "There was never enough traffic."
Charles "Tooter" Fritz, former police chief, said, "We had several accidents with the light and only four since they took it down."
Motorists adhere to a stop sign on Church Street, but to get an adequate view they often have to pull far into High Street, a state highway with a high volume of truck traffic.
"It's a hard corner to see," said Mr. Dixon, a High Street resident. "You have to pull out too far to be safe."
Thomas G. Donaldson II, a Church Street resident, compared the traffic scene on the corner to a dangerous game.
"Cars are like shot out of a pinball machine, when they are trying to get onto High Street from Church," he said. "A light would serve the safety of town citizens, particularly the children."
The proposal met with a mixed reaction, when Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. introduced the idea at the council meeting last week.
Neal Roop, who operates a grocery store at the intersection, said a light probably wouldn't eliminate the constant noise of squealing brakes.
Jack Gullo Sr. said the "smoke and noise from trucks stopping and starting will be disastrous."
Residents living at or near the intersection insist that a light is the only way to prevent accidents and deter speeders on the 30 mph roads.
"When I am working outside, trucks a half-mile away get my attention," Mr. Donaldson said. "I hold my hands up to slow them down, but I usually get the salute. There needs to be some regulation."
Mayor Gullo is asking for public comment before he contacts the State Highway Administration, which would pay the $75,000 installation costs.
Gene Straub, assistant district traffic engineer, said the request would be a familiar one. A community that wants a light does not always get one.
"Whenever a community has a problem with an intersection, they say they need a light," he said. "If it were up to the general public, there would be lights everywhere. The decision is all based on our study."
Before making any decision, the highway department gathers accident data, measures delays and speeds, assesses the geometrics of the intersection and completes a 13-hour traffic volume count. The traffic analysis study takes about three months.
"We measure the advantages vs. the disadvantages," Mr. Straub said. "If a signal is warranted and needed to solve a problem, we will put it in."
The signal doesn't always solve the problem, he said.
"At most new signals, accidents increase," he said. "Signals can also increase delays."
Despite that caveat, several residents said they would like to return to the days when New Windsor was a one-traffic-light town.
"The only way to know if it works is to give it a try, and it's worth a try," said Diana Dixon of High Street.