October 26, 2021

Police to ticket Otter Creek Place entry

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

A truck turns Monday onto Otter Creek Place, a few hours after city workers installed a flashing "Do not enter" sign and blocked the lane to traffic with orange barrels. The city recent restricted traffic Otter Creek Place to one way, exiting on to Groton, except local traffic, which can go both ways.

DO NOT ENTER reads the flashing sign, indicating the demise of a popular crosstown shortcut.

The sign went up Monday at Otter Creek Place and Groton Avenue, following the Feb. 3 passage of a local law changing the traffic pattern on the narrow street. Residents had complained of drivers speeding in this area, which has been increasingly frequented by pedestrians, many of them SUNY Cortland students. Only a small portion of the road has a sidewalk.

The Cortland Common Council, agreeing with concerns about safety, passed the law that blocked non-local access to Otter Creek Place from Groton Avenue. The law does not affect local traffic, which can still access Otter Creek Place from both ends and drive both ways on the street, nor does it restrict emergency vehicles, pedestrians or cyclists.

Violations began almost immediately.

“Some people are following the law, and some people are obviously ignoring it,” said Angela Gellatly, who lives at 4 Otter Creek Place and has been a vocal proponent of changing the traffic pattern. While she was talking, five vehicles made the now-illegal turn — racking up five violations in less than five minutes.

Lt. David Guerrera said police noticed a similar frequency of violation Monday — the first officer on the scene also noted five violations in five minutes. Initially, police let violators off with a warning. Not anymore, Guerrera said.

Wednesday afternoon, he was drafting a memo to officers instructing them to ticket violators. Guerrera said giving people a warning on the first few days was warranted, because many people did not know the change was taking place, and some misunderstood the intention behind the orange construction barrels placed at the juncture of Otter Creek Place and Groton Avenue.

But residents have been calling the police department about the constant violations.

“People are complaining that we’re not doing enough, so we’re going to try to do more,” he said.

Fewer drivers, however, are using the turn, Guerrera said, something Gellatly has also noticed. Compliance may be poor, but some drivers are doing what they’re supposed to. Gellatly said she has seen several drivers slow down and appear to hesitate before continuing to drive on Groton.

Yet overall, drivers have been demonstrating “not a lot of compliance,” Guerrera said. But he thinks this will change once his officers start handing out tickets.

Mayor Brian Tobin requested that drivers who don’t live on Otter Creek Place to stop using that street as a shortcut. Because orange barrels now partially block Otter Creek Place, drivers who make the illegal turn increase the likelihood of a head-on collision with a car legally exiting that street.

“We need people to comply and not make that turn,” he said.