Town closes access to and from Jarmain Road at Route 17A

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:14

    Warwick-Travelers coming up Route 17A toward Warwick will notice bright orange barriers at the entrance of Jarmain Road and signs stating "Do Not Enter." The residents on that road cannot exit onto 17A either. That thoroughfare is now closed to all traffic, except for local traffic, years after a tragedy rocked the town. Una Pesante lost her teenage daughter on the road. Since then she has been urging the board to remedy a bad road situation that has had many accidents and near accidents. "My concern again is for the safety of all," Pesante told the Town Board members. "That road is a tragedy waiting to happen over and over again." Jarmain Road is steep, especially as it meets Route 17A. The turn onto 17A is difficult, given limited sight distance. In the same sense, cars coming from 17A made a very sharp turn onto Jarmain. The board decided to take action after consulting with police and local residents. Not everyone is happy about it. Andy Ehlers has lived at the top of Jarmain Road, right near the intersection with 17A for 17 years. He fears that closing Jarmain Road could prove dangerous to its residents, especially during winter. "I think by closing the top of Jarmain there will be weather related risks," Ehlers told the board. Ehlers specifically spoke of the risks in winter when fire, police, and other emergency vehicles have to get there. He worried that he would have to buy a four-wheel drive vehicle to get all the way up the road. These things I think need to be thought out and I think you are putting my family at risk," he said. "At the bottom of Jarmain Road it ices over and DPW gets called. They come out quickly, but they have to come out and it's a band aid treatment. There is an excess amount of traffic that comes through at an excess amount of speed. It would help to close it, to stop people from making the turn. But it's locking the residents in." The town didn't see it that way. Supervisor Michael Sweeton said he understood Ehlers' concerns. He assured Ehlers that both the town engineer and the commissioner of Public Works would discuss the icing issue at the bottom of the road. He also said that the town would work on a better way to clear snow at the top of the road in case of emergency. The barriers at the top of Jarmain Road are removable, and they can be knocked down by driving over them. The ambulance corp expressed concern if they could not access the top of Jarmain in getting to St. Anthony Hospital. Sweeton said they could simply drive over the barriers. Councilman Leonard DeBuck said the board made the right decision when all was taken into account. "Historically, turning out of Jarmain Rd. to the right has been posted as an illegal turn as is turning left off of 17A on to Jarmain Road," said DeBuck. "Unfortunately, likely because of a need to save time, travelers have been known to make an illegal turn. Because of the serious deficiencies at this intersection and some tragic accidents that have happened there, the town had to make a decision to close the intersection or modify it to a degree that would prevent further accidents. After studying the issue thoroughly, holding a public hearing, surveying emergency providers and researching the options available to us, the town decided to put up permanent, but collapsible highway barricades that a emergency vehicle could drive over but would for all other purposes effectively close that intersection to other vehicles." Sweeton also said large trucks making local deliveries would be allowed to go over the barriers as long as the town is notified ahead of time. Ehlers is still concerned. He is not bothered by the inconvenience, rather the risk to his family. "Once again, I don't want to be penalized," Ehlers said. "I've lived there for 17 year and I know it's an extra five or ten minutes to go the other way. But we've never been ticketed, we've never had any accidents, and we've never made the right or left hand turn. I'm the last house on the top of the hill and I have a major concern for my family." Pesante sees it differently. "I want to thank the board, Michael Sweeton, and especially Annie Rabbitt," said Pesante. "I've never seen Jarmain Road and Lakes Road frozen over and also for the record, I've never made that turn. No one was there that night and we don't know what happened, but as I said before there are illegal and legal right and left turns. My concern again is for the safety of all. That road is a tragedy waiting to happen over and over again."