By Annette Hinkle
After years of heated discussions, revised plans and a contentious couple of months, it would seem the hamlet of Noyac is about to become a calmer place — in more ways than one.
At the Southampton Town Board work session last Thursday, the town’s highway superintendent, Alex Gregor, presented a newly revised plan to mediate traffic issues along the heavily traversed stretch of Noyac Road in front of Cromer’s Country Market and the Whalebone General Store.
Gregor had faced criticism from Noyac residents and town board members unhappy with many aspects of his earlier plans. But based on Thursday’s reception, it would seem the board, residents and business owners have come to happy agreement on the project.
“It’s been a long road,” said Gregor. “The town has been working on this project in this area for a long time.”
For years, Noyac Road in front of Cromer’s and the Whalebone has been considered a traffic nightmare— not just for drivers, but pedestrians and cyclists as well. Problems include a curve in the road blocking sight lines from the west and cars that pull into and out of perpendicular parking spaces directly onto the road, where heavy traffic tends to travel far too fast.
In 2011, the Southampton Town Board allocated $450,000 to the problem and tasked Gregor with coming up with viable plan for the area. Gregor’s solution, known as 7A, included widening of the roadway to accommodate a larger parking area for the shops with a curb separating it from traffic, installation of a raised center median, and a proposal to turn Bay Avenue just west of the retail complex into a one-way leading into Pine Neck. Elm Street to the west of Bay, was slated to be a one way heading back to Noyac Road.
It was this last component of 7A, along with the use of numerous concrete surfaces in the plan, which raised the ire of residents and pitted them and the town board against Gregor in recent months. Without the support of the town board, Gregor put the plan out to bid in April, which is his right as highway superintendent, and received a low bid of $509,000 from South Fork Asphalt.
Without the approval of the town board, there was little hope of the bid being accepted. But much has happened since then, including conversations with the residents and businesses affected. On Thursday, Gregor unveiled a newly revised plan known as 7A option 1.
And this time, the plan addresses many of the earlier concerns including the one way streets and amount of concrete to be used.
“This solution came from a combination of input from the community, different traffic engineers and anyone else who cared to chime in,” says Gregor. “We were asked by the community to do the minimal amount to make safer. What we’ve done is reduced cement curbing, used more painting and made it aesthetically more pleasing with plantings in the median areas in the roadway.”
“Traffic calming is a combination of mainly physical measures that reduce the negative affects of motor vehicle use,” said Gregor who estimates that at least 10,000 cars a day travel east and west on Noyac Road. “It alters diver behavior and improves conditions for non-motorists who use the street. That’s the simplest explanation of what we’re trying to do.”
Gregor added that the one way components on Bay and Elm have been eliminated, with the one caveat that cars entering Noyac Road from Bay Avenue will only be able to turn right, or westbound. Drivers will still be able to turn either way on Noyac Road from Elm Street.
Gregor noted most traffic will approach and leave the shopping complex from the east, by Cromer’s, via Cedar Lane, where he added enough room will be provided for tractor trailers to back in off the road when making deliveries.
“We’re under the impression most traffic will go in and out of that exit,” he said.
To accommodate parking, Gregor said Noyac Road will be shifted no more than 30 feet south, providing an alleyway of 24 feet in the parking lot as well as 18 feet for perpendicular spots.
“That’s enough room to move around and still have roadway and turn lanes,” said Gregor.
A 3” wide and 6” high curb will delineate parking from the roadway, and be mountable on the road side if large vehicles need to cross it. On Noyac Road east and west bound deceleration or turn lanes will allow cars to get out of the roadway before entering the shopping area.
“We provide two of those going east bound,” said Gregor. “One turn lane puts you in at the Bay and Elm intersection and provides for six or seven cars to safely get out of the travel lane and turn into Bay Avenue.”
The other turn lane leads into the parking area on the east side of Cromer’s said Gregor who has met with George and Linda Heine, owners of the Whalebone, and Tony Lawless, owner of Cromer’s, to address issued they had with the project.
“Talking to property owners, there is some concern about what we call the little lobe separating the roadway from the parking area by Bay Avenue,” said Gregor. “That representation is not quite right on the drawing and it will be tucked in closer to Mr. and Mrs. Heine’s property on the west side.”
Gregor explained that the ultimate goal of the traffic calming project is to slow traffic on Noyac Road down to 15 or 20 mph in the area.
“The idea is to create friction and resistance to have vehicles proceed slowly through the site and go safely to stores and Pine Neck,” said Gregor. “What we’re doing is establishing a hamlet center, for lack of a better word. For all intents and purposes, this is the retail center for Noyac. I do think it’s a benefit.”
“It’s a change and we’re asking for some degree of faith,” he added. “We’ve worked quite hard on it and I think we have something palatable to most now. It’s safe and gets the job done without going to overkill.”
Both residents and business owners in attendance at Thursday’s works session expressed appreciation for the new plan.
“I’d like to thank Alex for coming up with a plan we all are happy with,” said Tony Lawless. “I’m happy we came to a conclusion and something that works for everyone. I’m not opposed to this and I think it works for everyone.”
When asked by Anna Throne-Holst about the potential timing of the project, Gregor conceded it would not begin this summer.
‘If we were to go forward with this, the bid needs to be awarded,” said Gregor. “We’ve already approached LIPA, but they wouldn’t consider moving the six poles on the south side of the road unless a contract is awarded.”
“It’s on their radar screen, but the real mechanism to start is a signed contract saying we’re committed to go,” added Gregor, who finished his presentation by telling the town board, “I appreciate your patience.”
“And we appreciate your working with us,” countered Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.
“I think you’ve done valiant job at sticking with this and we want to see this through, thank you,” added Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civic Council who will now take the plan back to her group’s next meeting on July 16.
Loreto also asked Gregor about traffic calming measures further west on Noyac Road which had been proposed in a separate discussion. Gregor noted that within two or three weeks, he hopes to install a series of white pole delineators along the center yellow line of Noyac Road in front of the Community Bible Church in an effort to slow traffic there.
Police will monitor the area with radar, he said, to determine what sort of affect the devices have on traffic.