Rail Proposal Draws Ire From Bridgehampton CAC

Posted on 30 April 2010

Members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee said this week that a light rail service, as proposed in a pending state bill drafted by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, would not solve congestion issues on the East End.

The state bill would ask voters from the five East End towns, via a non-binding referendum, to approve the creation of the Peconic Bay Transportation Authority, which essentially would replace service currently provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The non-binding resolution is meant to poll the region’s residents to see if the proposal has support.

Members of the Bridgehampton CAC voted at their meeting on Monday to ask Thiele and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst to explore other options in an attempt to solve the area’s growing traffic problems.

Longtime CAC member Ian MacPherson raised the issue at a Monday, April 26 meeting, sparking debate on what solutions, if any, could solve congestion in Bridgehampton. MacPherson said the idea of a light rail system coupled with bus service on the East End – a concept introduced after the Volpe Center of the United States Department of Transportation studied the issue for the five East End towns – would not reduce traffic in a meaningful way, only taking two to 10 percent of cars off the road.

“The amount of good it would do for solving congestion problems, which is the sole point of the legislation, would be extremely limited at an extremely high price,” said MacPherson.

MacPherson acknowledged there are likely only three ways to reduce congestion — through rail, through improving existing roadways and lastly by building a new road.

Jeffrey Vogel argued that before County Road 39 was extended through Southampton, it took some four-and-a-half hours to reach the East End, and building and tourism increased once it was in place.

“If anything we should be making the roads smaller to discourage people from coming out,” he said.

Richard Bruce supported MacPherson’s point about increasing rail on the East End, stating people simply like being in their cars and he would like to see traffic diverted, through a new roadway or bypass, so it doesn’t come through the towns. He suggested a bypass from County Road 39 near the Omni in Southampton to Stephen Hands Path in East Hampton.

“From a convenience and quality of life standpoint, it would be nice in the middle of August to be able to drive to Southampton in the afternoon,” he said.

“It would never get done,” said Vogel. “Everyone on that road would fight you tooth and nail. It would never get out of court.”

“The point of my motion is the options should be considered,” said MacPherson.

The CAC passed a resolution stating they do not think the bus and rail system would serve the East End’s interests since vehicular traffic is fundamental to the area and therefore request other options, including bypasses, be considered. The resolution will be sent to Thiele and Throne-Holst.

Supports Bridgehampton Boundaries

Also on Monday, Vogel presented the committee with the new Bridgehampton boundary map, completed by the Town of Southampton, which has spent the last several months creating a solid map outlining its various hamlet’s boundaries.

According to Vogel, the town looked at different tax districts, voter records and postal addresses to come to their conclusion. As for Bridgehampton, Vogel said the new map is not controversial at all. The southern border is the Atlantic Ocean from Scott Cameron Beach to the cut at Sagg Pond. The eastern edge of the hamlet runs along the Village of Sagaponack’s boundary, from the center of Sagg Pond north, to just west of Poxabogue Pond. It then continues through the unincorporated portion of Sagaponack, ending a half mile north of Scuttlehold Road. The western boundary goes north from Horse Mill Lane to New Light Lane and from New Light Lane across Montauk Highway up Hayground Road and along Little Noyac Path where it meets Middle Line Highway.

While portions of Mecox and Bay lanes, often viewed as Bridgehampton by many residents, are not technically Water Mill, Vogel explained a number of the residents there see themselves as Southampton or Water Mill residents, not Bridgehampton residents.

The CAC passed a resolution supporting the new boundary lines.

Lastly, Kevin Tate, who lives next to the Wolffer Vineyard reported that the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals appears on the brink of approving a variance that would allow for the construction of six apartments in a converted six-car garage next to his house, pending an agreement about a tree buffer to the neighboring property.

Tate said the worker housing would be year-round, and his concerns have gone unheard by the zoning board of appeals.

“They are riding roughshod over us and we don’t have a leg to stand on in our own town,” he said.

“The solution is the Village of Bridgehampton,” said Vogel. “If you were in Sagaponack, this wouldn’t be happening to you.”

The next ZBA meeting on the project is slated for May 6.

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2 Responses to “Rail Proposal Draws Ire From Bridgehampton CAC”

  1. I would like to thank Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Senator Kenneth P. LaValle for proposing the light rail service plan for the East End. It’s exciting that such a terrific idea has the potential to become reality. It’s sad to read about all the old ideas being voiced again; trying to add more roads or widen existing roads would not only face impossible legal hurdles, but would be a further effort to degrade the beauty of the environment that makes the East End such a unique – and profitable – place to live and do business.

    The idea that ‘people like being in their cars’ is an unacceptable argument from the past. If we as a community focus on the pressing issues of the day we will understand that carbon pricing is coming, so oil prices will only continue to rise. We are also recognizing, as a nation, that our national security is at risk by buying oil from despotic regimes that support terrorism. Right now we are fighting two wars because of it. Add to this the crises of global warming and the recent oil spill in the Gulf and it’s apparent that the ways of the past in which we spend all day in our cars are quickly looking absurd. A light rail is a key ingredient in the mix to make us an economically viable community in the future. It will help get us get off the sauce and has the potential to help make us a carbon neutral community (it could be powered by an off shore wind farm, perhaps?) These ‘crackpot’ ideas of the future are in place now in countries that used to look to America for leadership. It’s a race to take the initiative and we as a community need to get out front rather than lag in the back.

    As a local who grew up in Bridgehampton, I recall how often I used to travel from hamlet to hamlet, Everything was interconnected. East, South, Bridge, all in a weekend. Now I live in the village of Southampton and the idea of going to East Hampton on a summer’s eve is downright crazy. Traffic, DWIs, reckless road rage. All of it makes the stress level beyond belief. It cuts us off from each other and it is terrible for the economy. Now imagine this: a summer breeze blows as you jump a light rail to to East Hampton with friends for a movie, dinner and a bottle of red, then maybe stop by Sag Harbor on the way home for drinks or a waffle cone, some shopping and a stroll. All without getting in your car. No gassing up, no DWI, no carbon, no accident. And you’re telling me that doesn’t sound better than your car? Better for businesses? Better for the community? Let’s have that light rail, please.

  2. Art says:

    I applaud the forward thought process of light rail however not enough people will not use the train to justify the cost and that is a fact. Replace the rail road tracks with a paved toll road and all your problems are solved. I don’t know why the Bridgehampton CAC is given any attention. They are a bunch of well meaning people with too much free time that seem to stand against everything! They complain like self entitled locals with out any realistic solutions for their problems. I can not justify or comprehend their agenda and hope our elected officials continue see through them.

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