December 6, 2021

Cortland police monitor traffic on Otter Creek Place

Speeding concerns

Travis Dunn/Staff Reporter

A car passes a speed monitor on Otter Creek Place Tuesday afternoon as Brian Anjeski passes by on his way back to work after a lunch break. Some residents who live on this road have expressed concern about speeding and pedestrian safety.

Angela Gellatly, who lives on 4 Otter Creek Place in Cortland, worries about people speeding on her street.

It’s not just that cars sometimes come whizzing across from Groton Avenue to the street in front of her house. Sometimes cars drive up on her sidewalk. She’s not happy about that.

Gellatly voiced her concerns last week to the city Common Council. At 5 the next morning, Cortland police set up a mobile radar unit on Otter Creek Place.

The machine was set to count and check the speed of vehicles driving southwest from Groton Avenue to Broadway.

By 6 p.m. Tuesday, the police got the results: 601 of 4,732 vehicles were speeding; 19 were traveling faster than 41 mph, and five faster than 51.

“There are some speeding concerns — the higher speeds,” said Deputy Chief Paul Sandy. However, he added, “The vast majority are obeying the speed limit.”

Police have now turned the machine around and will monitor traffic coming from the other direction, Sandy said. “We will be doing some traffic enforcement in that area,” he said.

Police will present their findings to the Common Council, the mayor and the Department of Public Works.

Otter Creek Place is a shortcut for traffic heading east from Broadway to Groton Avenue, or west from Groton Avenue to Broadway.

For motorists, Otter Creek Place cuts out the traffic light at Groton and Townley Avenue.

For pedestrians and cyclists, it offers a quiet little detour from the more heavily trafficked Groton Avenue.

For SUNY Cortland students, it offers a shortcut to Pinecrest Drive, where they can access steps that lead up to campus.

However, Otter Creek Place does not have a sidewalk. Only three houses — Gellatly’s house at 4 Otter Creek and the two houses on either side — have sidewalk in front of them, and it’s level with the road.

The road itself is narrow — street signs say it’s a one-lane road. One-lane — but not one-way. When two cars meet, one must pull aside. Many areas of the road also lack much of a shoulder, and some of the parts that do have a shoulder are covered in high weeds.

Judy Booth, who lives at 19 Otter Creek Place, said she has become increasingly concerned about the volume of vehicle and pedestrian traffic, which she she attributed to the growth of student housing on Otter Creek Place and Groton Avenue.

“I’m just concerned about the safety,” she said. “(Students) are on their phones and maybe not paying attention, and people are driving pretty fast through there.”

“The ideal solution would be a sidewalk,” she said.

But Gellatly, who moved to Cortland June 27 from the Freeville area, wants another change: She wants the city to eliminate the left turn off Groton Avenue onto Otter Creek Place. She has repeatedly watched people speed across from Groton Avenue.

She also recently saw a vehicle nearly hit two pedestrians.

“They got into a verbal argument right there in the intersection,” she said.

Gellatly said making the street one-way would be best solution, but that eliminating left turns off Groton Avenue would be a more generally acceptable solution.

Booth, however, who lives closer to the Broadway end of Otter Creek Place, said cars coming from that side also speed.

Brian Anjeski, who was walking Tuesday down Otter Creek Place on his lunch break, said he frequently walks and drives down the street. A sidewalk, he said, “would definitely be nice.”

“I like this street because it’s kind of peaceful,” he said. “It’s quiet and you got that stream down there.”

Mayor Brian Tobin said the city is listening to residents’ concerns.

“The number of pedestrians is fairly substantial,” said Tobin, who regularly cycles down the street. “We do have a responsibility to give people safe places to walk.”

The street was repaved and widened several years ago, he said, “with the intention of widening it and making it safer.”

Tobin said the city will evaluate ways to address the problems. He questioned whether, for instance, making the street one-way would slow traffic, or just reduce the volume.

He also acknowledged the lack of sidewalks presents a problem.

“We do have stretches that do not have sidewalks and probably should,” he said.

Otter Creek Place has not gone unnoticed by city officials; Tobin said the street could be included as part of the east-west corridor project now underway on Clinton Avenue and will extend down Groton Avenue.

“We’ve already been looking at this as potentially part of a bigger project,” Tobin said.