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.