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Peppered by Potholes: Shake, Rattle and Roll Down the Road

Posted on 23 March 2011

Heller_Noyac Rd Potholes_8089

By Claire Walla

Perhaps you’ve noticed them — or maybe even hit one.

After one of the harshest winters the East Coast has seen in a while, potholes have developed across much of the East End, making morning commutes and mid-day drives treacherous for tires, and marking many trips with sudden slows and illegal swerves.

According to an on-line survey the Express sent out last week, in which residents were asked to name the most pock-marked areas in town, 69 of 126 respondents pointed to Noyac Road as one of the most afflicted areas.

Sag Harbor Village Highway Supervisor Dee Yardley said that many village residents have called to report the damage in Noyac. However, as this area is outside village jurisdiction, he’s been referring all calls to Southampton Town.

While Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor did confirm that the town has been getting calls regarding that stretch of roadway, he added that the town can’t do much to amend the situation. At least for now.

“Hot mix is not available until April 1,” said Gregor referring to the asphalt repair material needed for the job, which won’t be manufactured by plants until that date.

In the meantime, Gregor said the town is adamant about tending to potholes with what’s known as dry mix. Unlike the hot mix — which is first heated then smoothed over with a rolling truck, and tends to cool and solidify in a matter of minutes — dry mix is added to an asphalt wound and smoothed over with a rolling truck, but because it’s not heated, it’s more easily disturbed.

“It’s kind of like it’s alive,” Yardley said adding that traffic and weather will disturb this cold patch, while water can nestle into the space and prevent the dry asphalt from settling and staying in place.

In other words, it’s only temporary.

Gregor continued, “because there’s nothing for the asphalt to stick to, traffic and water and weather can make it pop out.”

While he estimated Southampton Town has probably filled about 150 potholes this year, Gregor is careful to make the distinction between these deep gashes and what he calls “blisters.”

Those nicks in Noyac?

“Those are just blisters,” Gregor explained, noting that to be considered a pothole a gash in the road must technically be at least three inches deep. He estimated many of the marks on Noyac Road were one to one-and-a-half inches deep.

“It’s a waste of time and money to fix those blisters,” he added.

Though Southampton Town approved a bond last December that would give the Highway Department $3.5 million for town-wide paving this year, Gregor said the bond has yet to be issued, which means Gregor is now working with the $140,000 rollover from last year’s budget.

“We don’t have much to actually start repaving,” he said.

Gregor added that it would be prudent for the town to approve funding as soon as possible, as the rise in fuel prices will likely double the cost of the town’s asphalt contracts from about $72 per ton to double that amount.

“I’m hoping to start repaving by April 12 or 13,” Gregor said.

As for Sag Harbor Village, Yardley said there are about 27 miles of road to tend to and about 98 percent of village potholes are filled.

“We fix them as they come up,” he said, adding that the crew is currently out on the roads repairing holes that had been filled with the dry mix.

Come April, the village will also begin to repave roads. Using the $90,000 reserved in the budget for road repair, Yardley said he will begin by hitting surface areas in need of the most attention, such as Union, Latham, Rogers and Henry Streets near the First Presbyterian Church.

Though in the past the village has repaved roads using oil and stone, the cheapest method, he said this technique is the least desirable because it leaves a thin surface that can crack and “blister” more easily. Yardley said that, to his knowledge, the only two Southampton Town villages that use oil and stone are Sag Harbor Village and Westhampton.) This year, Yardley hopes to use a microsurfacing technique that is a bit more costly, but not as expensive as repaving with asphalt.

“The roads are all good structurally,” he added. “We’re just trying to take out some of the whoop-di-doos.”

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