By Amanda Wyatt
Elena Loreto, the president of the Noyac Civil Council, is enjoying a quiet moment gardening in her backyard. But in the middle of snipping some fresh flowers, her solace is interrupted by what sounds like a machine gun.
Of course, she knows it’s not a weapon. It’s merely another truck on nearby Noyac Road, using its “Jake brakes” to slow down around a curve. And for Loreto, this is an everyday occurrence.
“I am one block from Noyac Road, and I’m one block away from Trout Pond,” she explained. “I’m right at that curve. On an ordinary day, I hear the trucks using these brakes on Noyac Road. There’s no denying it. If they’re using them, I’ll hear them when I’m in my backyard. If I’m sitting on my deck, I’ll hear them. If my windows are open, I’ll hear them.”
With any luck, Loreto may find her street a bit quieter in the coming months, as the Southampton Town Highway Department takes new measures to prevent “Jake braking” and cope with other traffic concerns on Noyac Road.
For several weeks, a “no Jake braking” sign has been posted on Noyac Road, put in place by the town’s Superintendent of Highways, Alex Gregor.
“Little signs don’t work, so I got a big, in-your-face electronic billboard that I borrowed from the County Department of Public Works,” he said in an interview this week.
“What we’re asking is for the trucks to consider [on] the 9, 10 or 11 miles of Noyac Road that they don’t use their engine brake — that’s what a “Jake brake” is,” explained Gregor. “It’s an electric switch that makes the engine brake itself, rather than just depending on the brakes. But it does increase the noise level and it’s a residential area.”
Loreto recalled that this issue came up at a meeting in the spring, when Noyac residents met with local officials at a public forum to discuss problems on the road.
She also worried that using Jake brakes might mean that the truckers were speeding to begin with.
“If they’re doing the speed limit, which is 30 to 35, there’s probably no need for them to use these Jake brakes,” she claimed.
Gregor agreed that speeding was a major issue.
“Without a doubt, one of the biggest problems from noise, whether commercial or regular cars, is the excessive speeds,” he said.
There is currently no fine for “Jake braking” on Noyac Road, as there are in some parts of the country. However, Gregor hoped that local government officials would take his lead and ban the brakes as part of their town code.
At the same time, he also expressed his hope that truck drivers would stop “Jake braking” as a sign of courtesy to Noyac residents. Otherwise, he feared, there could be a larger effort to ban trucks from Noyac Road altogether. This would force trucks to travel on smaller back roads or already crowded main drags like Montauk Highway and Scuttlehole Road.
“No one [in Noyac] wants to stop their refrigerator from being delivered or a FedEx truck,” noted Loreto. “Our interest is getting a lot of the extra vehicles off Noyac Road that don’t belong here — the ones not making the local deliveries.”
In addition to “Jake braking,” Gregor is also planning to “upgrade the signage” on the road, warning drivers of upcoming bends and curves. He also hopes to put up additional signs showing how many accidents there have been on a particular stretch of the road within a given time.
For example, he noted, there have been a staggering 47 accidents near the Whalebone General Store and Cromer’s Country Market in the past three years alone. There has been an “extreme increase” in accidents in general, said Gregor, many caused by speeding.
Gregor said he has also been in talks with Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming and Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson, who said that they would ramp up radar enforcement on Noyac Road to the best of their ability.
“I’m hoping that they’ll saturate the area for two to three weeks,” he said. “I don’t really know any other way to slow people down.