SOMERS, N.Y.--A new traffic light to regulate vehicles entering and leaving Somers High School braced for its first major test this week as classes resumed for the new school year.

State engineers installed the light and a separate left-turn lane this summer on Route 139 (Primrose  Street) at the high school driveway. 

As designed by the state Department of Transportation’s Poughkeepsie office, the traffic light remains “green” for through traffic on Route 139. The “red” signal is activated by vehicle detector loops embedded beneath both the school driveway and the left-turn lane on southbound Route139, a heavily traveled, 35-mph road.

Sign Up for E-News

The $1.3 million project closed lanes at time but not the entire road.

Completion of construction brings to a close years of study, planning and occasional controversy. 

The school district asked the state in 2011 for better driveway traffic control. After studies, the Department of Transportation (DOT) settled on two options, one of them a traditional traffic light and the other a single-lane traffic circle known as a roundabout.
Almost immediately, the roundabout ran into straightforward opposition. 

Roundabouts have long been a fixture in other parts of the world, but only recently have begun to find acceptance in the United States. Traffic professionals credit them with “impressive accident reductions.” 
DOT’s “Citizens Guide to Roundabouts” calls today’s designs “relatively small, particularly when compared with typical traffic circles. So, traffic speeds are slower, there are more opportunities to enter circulating traffic, and fewer accidents result.”

But in a 2015 public workshop at the high school, Somers fire officials said they preferred the traffic-light option, calling a roundabout and its center island an impediment that could increase emergency response times. The town board, taking an official position, backed the traffic light, and so did individual residents.

In the end, DOT adopted the community’s preference.