Editor’s Note: This is part of a series on issues in the town of Gorham that were highlighted at a contentious Town Board meeting last week. Links to all parts are, or will, be published at the bottom of this story as they are released.
County Road 18 cuts through Ontario County connecting Hopewell and Canandaigua to Route 245 and Yates County. Residents say it’s dangerous – not only for drivers passing through, but for those who call it home.
Last week when residents spoke out about traffic issues along County Road 18 – it would’ve been easy to assume they were pushing back on proposed development along it. A new wedding venue is in the works, and FingerLakes1.com caught up with some of the people who spoke out about traffic.
Specifically, the issues involve traffic control, which if Town or County officials were able to get a handle on, would dramatically change the narrative around current or future development.
“If they addressed the traffic concerns neighbors have, I don’t think development would be a problem,” Kathy Baxter, a Gorham resident who spoke out at last week’s heated town board meeting told FingerLakes1.com days after the session. “Another development will mean more traffic, and right now [County Road] 18 struggles to handle the traffic it gets now, and enforcement along that road is not great.”
“It’s like we’re a NASCAR qualifying lane,” Debbie North, another Gorham resident added. “Our farm is right near the intersection of Lake to Lake Road and County Road 18. There’s an accident, I’m gonna say, once a month.”
North described an accident where an impatient motorist tried to pass a slow moving tractor on a double-yellow line. The tractor was making a left turn as the driver attempted to get by resulting in a pretty serious wreck.
“The young man in the tractor was scared out of his wits,” North recalled. “It didn’t hurt the tractor. [The motorist] told the state troopers it was [their own] fault, and they never thought he would be turning. But traffic on County Road 18 is a big problem.”
There was another traffic accident involving a horse-and-buggy on County Road 18. “Pretty severe injuries,” North continued. “The horse ended up being euthanized. The sheriff’s department and troopers sit at the intersection. Unfortunately though, they don’t catch a lot of people. When you’ve got horse drawn traffic, kids, hopped up vehicles, teens, and tourists — it’s way too much. More traffic from more venues without better control mechanisms or enforcement is going to make the situation worse.”
FingerLakes1.com reached out to the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday and Wednesday regarding this story. Our goal was to get a better sense of the traffic data the county has on County Road 18, or what approach the sheriff’s office has taken to enforcing speed limits on it. They didn’t get back to us.
At that contentious meeting in the town of Gorham last week residents spoke out about possibly reducing the speed limit on County Road 18 if there is going to be increased traffic on it. With a new wedding and events venue in the works, and proximity to CMAC and Lincoln Hill Farms — County Road 18 is positioned to see a steady increase in traffic over the coming years.
As for a solution, North thinks the first step is slowing people down. “I think first you’ve got to get Ontario County to do some kind of speed reduction,” she explained — noting that there’s probably a limit to how much of it could be reduced. “There’s probably some space where you could keep it 55 mph, but reducing to 45 mph wouldn’t be feasible for the entire length. Reduce to 45 mph where development is happening or is planned.”
Baxter had choice words for the situation. “Traffic on County Road 18 is ridiculous. Particularly pertaining to speed,” she continued. “I see it mostly coming down the hill. People going toward East Lake Road. In fact, there have been several accidents there. Last winter, one car went into a neighbor’s yard. One car went into the yard of a home, went into the ditch, and went airborne across the intersection of Lincoln Hill Road and County Road 18. Had any of us been sitting there waiting to turn it would have been devastating. The [driver] wasn’t hurt, believe it or not, but she would have killed one of us, or one of our kids.”
Both Baxter and North described the current traffic flow on County Road 18 as ‘moderate’.
“I think a lot of people use it to cut across to go to town, instead of going out to 5&20,” Baxter continued. She said that factoring in summertime traffic leaving concerts at CMAC, events at Lincoln Hill Farms, housing, as well as farm land that’s ripe for future development — there is plenty of reason to get the traffic problem solved there.
As far as lowering the speed limit to bring down the speed and increase safety for residents who live along County Road 18 — Baxter isn’t sold. “Lowering the speed limit won’t do much, I don’t think,” she added. “It’s an enforcement issue. People go flying.”
It would be easy for an outsider to be skeptical of the opposition. County Road 18 is a country road. Driving along that road, though, it’s easy to see those concerns first-hand.
Earlier this week, on a rainy, windy day – I ventured out to County Road 18. In a span of less than 10 minutes I was passed twice while going the currently posted speed limit.
This stretch of County Road 18, and the town of Gorham as a whole is on the cusp of what’s been intense growth in Western Ontario County. It’s far enough removed from the Victor-Farmington-Canandaigua area that it probably isn’t on any regional or state lawmaker’s minds for infrastructure dollars to help handle increased population and travel. That said, it’s most definitely close enough to catch increased passive traffic.
So, what about an answer?
To date, the Town Board has looked to Ontario County for a possible speed limit reduction.
For the community to answer that question, though, it would be helpful to have traffic or accident data. Even complaints that have been filed with the County about the roadway would be helpful in painting a more complete picture of the situation. Plus, these concerns didn’t crop up overnight. It’s safe to assume that someone has been keeping track of complaints.
A traffic study and speed reduction are good short-term answers. But if the long-term trajectory of Ontario County is what it has been for the last decade — more will be necessary. Whether that be enforcement, or other traffic control methods to ensure there aren’t more accidents on that road.
MORE FROM THIS SERIES
- Part I: Why are Gorham residents so frustrated with the Town Board? (Monday, Oct. 17th)
- Part II: Inside the decision to borrow money to build a $5.5M highway building (Tuesday, Oct. 18th)
- Part III: Should short-term rentals be scrutinized with greater regulation in Gorham? (Wednesday, Oct. 19th)
- Part IV: Traffic concerns vs. economic development in Gorham — What’s wrong with County Road 18? ( Thursday, Oct. 20th)