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Calming Noyac

Posted on 17 October 2008

Noyac residents were understandably infuriated — other, stronger, words were used to describe their feelings Tuesday night — at the lack of response they have been getting from Southampton Town for projects important to the community. It’s been over six years since the town conducted a hamlet study there, and still key recommendations are far from fruition; many languishing on the drawing board. Others not even making it to the drawing board.

In particular traffic calming planning along Noyac Road has been moving at a glacial pace, while the route — one of the most heavily traveled in the town — becomes increasingly dangerous.

A town plan called for constructing a median in front of the Whalebone/Cromers parking area, and a roundabout at the intersection of Noyac and Long Beach roads; but neighboring business owners felt the median would discourage customers and the roundabout was, apparently, too expensive. As a result getting in and out of Cromers and the Whalebone is still a challenge and the roundabout — well, that’s been shelved. And still the traffic roars through the hamlet.

We suggest the town look to what the state did in Sag Harbor and North Haven along Route 114. That state route is actually part of the same problem as Noyac Road: both are regularly used as bypasses. Trucks and cars destined to and from the east end use this route to avoid Montauk Highway. As a result, the traffic is heavier than it deserves to be.

Several years ago, the state conducted its first experiment with traffic calming right here in Sag Harbor. It examined what it could do between the East Hampton Town line and the ferry to Shelter Island to force traffic to slow down and to make the route more pedestrian friendly. Considering this is the State DOT we’re talking about, it was a pretty progressive concept.

They created a series of bulb-outs, traffic islands and medians that has made it easier to cross many of the streets, and it has further encouraged Sag Harbor to be a greater walking village.

At the same time, the narrowing of intersections to accommodate pedestrians — rather than the widening of roads to encourage faster traffic —  has forced vehicles to move slower as they negotiate the roads. Think of larger corners which make for shorter distances across streets and islands that give pedestrians a safe place as they cross wider roads. This is how one calms traffic. The result is slower traffic and a route that discourages vehicles that want to get somewhere in a hurry.

We believe the same concept should be brought to the stretch of Noyac Road between the Waterside and Trout Pond. What has developed here over the years is an environment that is absolutely hostile to pedestrians. Nobody in their right mind would walk to the deli or Cromers or the Oasis or to go swimming or hiking at Trout Pond. It’s even treacherous for bikers.

Noyac will never be a rural little hamlet again; but with good planning its business district can be a safer and more pedestrian-friendly place.

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