By Annette Hinkle
Last month, Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor put out a call for bids for the traffic calming project known as 7A to be installed along the stretch of Noyac Road in front of the Cromer’s Country Market/Whalebone General Store shopping plaza.
Five bids came back as a result and Gregor reports they ranged as high as $741,147 — with the lowest qualified bidder, South Fork Asphalt, coming in at $509,450.
“It’s a great deal. They’re a local firm so I’m asking the town to award the bid to them,” said Gregor who would like the Southampton Town Board to decide on acceptance of the bid by the end of May.
The problem is, the town board has not endorsed the plan, which has been heavily criticized by many residents and the business owners who will be directly affected. As a result, in March, the town board failed to put forth a motion to bid out the project and Gregor proceeded with the bidding process on his own, which he’s entitled to do as a department head in the town who has already been earmarked funding.
But now, he needs board approval to accept the bid and proceed with the work.
“We have money for the Cromer’s project,” said Gregor. “If it goes forward we have $450,000 for the project now and can take the balance from paving programs.”
The 7A plan includes widening and shifting of Noyac Road 17-feet to the south as well as installation of raised center medians, turn lanes and a “back-stop” style curb to prevent cars from pulling in and out directly onto Noyac Road.
However, according to Gregor, gone is the most controversial aspect of the plan — the conversion of Bay Avenue and Elm Street into one-way roads heading north and south respectively — which residents opposed because they felt it would channel traffic into the quiet Pine Neck neighborhood.
“The plan is not changing – we can just paint Bay Avenue and Elm Street to be two way, with no left turn out of Bay going east on Noyac Road. You could go east and west out of Elm – it’s just changing the painting and making them both two way.”
“The town board has to award the bid – it’s a town board of indecision,” said Gregor who has criticized the board for caving into pressure from residents and business owners that oppose the plan. “We have seven to 12,000 vehicles a day going east and west on that road. For 14 years the town has worked with the community to find a solution. We believe we found the solution.”
“Now it takes the courage of the board to say the needs of many outweigh the needs of a few,” added Gregor. “This plan doesn’t change the character of Pine Neck.”
According to Jennifer Garvey in Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s office, while Gregor recently told Throne-Holst he had an idea to alter 7A, he has yet to officially present those changes to the board.
“He was suggesting this plan would avoid the issue [of the one-way streets]. But if he wants to continue to enlist the town board’s support, he has to show the plan formally,” explained Garvey. “She [Throne-Holst] said to him, ‘Come tell us about it.’ We have to see what he’s talking about. The big issue is people are saying ‘We don’t want this.’ He should shop it to residents and then come before the board.”
Coincidentally, the exchange between Gregor and Throne-Holst came during another recent traffic calming meeting held on site with members of the Noyac Civic Council further west on Noyac Road. It was instituted by resident Dorothy Frankel who is seeking the town’s help in slowing the traffic along all of Noyac Road.
Though Gregor suggested instituting measures on Noyac Road such as center road cones and signage, he also stressed there was no money in his budget to actually implement those measures.
There is, however, money for the Cromer’s project and Gregor, who would like to see construction of the plan begin by late fall, said it would take 80 days to complete.
“We actually took our time to make sure it can be done to maintain two-way traffic on Noyac Road,” said Gregor.
To urge the board to take action on the bid, in a May 3, 2013 letter to the town board, Gregor wrote “Time is of the essence. The potential for the next major pedestrian or vehicular accident in this area is imminent and litigation costs potentially associated with same could be enough to repave all of the roads in the Town of Southampton. The Town has been made fully aware of this unsafe section of Noyac Road for at least ten (10) years.
“Therefore,” continued Gregor, “the Highway Department respectfully requests that the Town Board award the ‘Noyac Road Traffic Calming Project’ contract to South Fork Asphalt in the amount of $509,450.00”
At this point, acceptance of the bid would require the board to prepare a resolution and Gregor would need the support of at least three town board members as well.
“The tough thing is, the data shows these traffic calming measures do work and need to be implemented,” said Gregor. “The business owners perceive this as ruining their business. I like Cromer’s and the Whalebone, but I have a responsibility to the public so they can drive, walk and cycle safely.”
“I’m not doing anything cutting edge that hasn’t been implemented in the past.”