18 months after changes to Route 531 drivers are crashing through a dead end

Berkeley Brean
Created: January 14, 2020 06:17 PM

SWEDEN, N.Y. (WHEC) — The state spent millions reconfiguring the end of Route 531 to make it easier to drive and stop the traffic jams on the way to Brockport. 

But that change now has drivers blowing through a dead end and crashing into a family's front yard. And after complaining to the state multiple times, they finally picked up the phone and called News10NBC. 


State data says almost 30,000 cars and trucks drive the road every day. 

We found that drivers mistakenly think they're on the correct highway west. But before they know it, they're driving off the road and into trees planted by New York State.

"So this is the Christmas tree that the first vehicle hit," Loretta Ross said.

Ross lives at the end of Brockport Spencerport Road. She says the first vehicle crashed Friday night. The second crashed on Saturday night. "And had this whole tree up underneath the vehicle," she said.

Ross says this has happened 15 to 20 times since the new highway opened a year and a half ago.

She documents the crashes with pictures. One shows the tire tracks through the mud. Another shows a car crashing through an orange and white warning gate in the snow. Another shows what happened when a car crashed into the Ford she was trying to sell on her front yard. 

Ross says the drivers always take out one of the trees.

"Sooner or later it's a safety issue," she said. "It's not going to be a vehicle. it's not going to be a tree. It's going to be a person."

Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "You've talked to some of the drivers who have crashed here. And you've asked them why did you come down a dead-end street? And they tell you what?"

Loretta Ross: "We followed our GPS."

Brean: "The GPS?"

Ross: "The GPS."

I put the GPS excuse to the test. 

I backtracked east of Loretta Ross's home. I put the College at Brockport in my phone. 

I traveled Route 31 and when I got to the intersection my GPS directed me the right way. 

The GPS sent me the correct way when I traveled on 531 too. 

So that's not the problem now. 

One problem is an optical illusion on the dead end. The angles of Brockport Spencerport Road and the newly constructed Route 31 make it appear as if the highway is straight ahead. 

The state put up two dead-end signs on the road. 

Ross wants more. 

Brean: "How many more signs do you need?"

Ross: "It's not so much down there. It's here at the end, in order to stop them."

Ross's county lawmaker, Mike Zale, wrote a letter to the New York State Department of Transportation in September asking the DOT to look into the problem. In a letter to Zale dated Dec. 4, 2019, the DOT wrote, "We have determined that additional signs informing motorists of the dead-end and a reduction of the current speed limit would be appropriate."

Since Dec. 4, Ross says three vehicles have crashed through the dead end. 

On Tuesday, NYS DOT Region 4 spokesman Jordan Guerrein said the DOT is going to add new 30 mph speed limit signs, double the number of dead-end signs and add "reflective" markers at the end of the road. 

Guerrein said the signs are ordered and should be installed "in the next few weeks."

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