According to supervisor Linda Kabot, the Southampton Town board needs to make a final decision on what will happen to County Road (CR) 39 – or the “funds will disappear.”
Last week, members of the town board met in a work session to discuss the Long Term Plan (LTP) for CR 39, all in agreement that they need to approve the interim plan that the county is suggesting, in order to comply with a January 2010 federal deadline.
Kabot’s goal on Friday was to get all the board members to co-sponsor a draft resolution, which affirms support for the Highway Improvement Plan, and provides Suffolk County with overall guidance for further development of a proposed LTP design concept.
The chief engineer from the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, William Hillman, presented a “funding situation” to the Southampton Town Board in late November, explaining that the county will be making improvements to the eastern portion of CR 39 similar to those completed on the western portion of the road in 2007-2008 as part of an interim plan. These additional interim plan improvements will not affect a Long Term Plan, or the funding of it, either positively or negatively, according to Hillman.
On Friday, at a work session, the board members met with Tom Neely, Southampton Town Transportation and Traffic Safety Director, to finalize a resolution to approve the county’s changes to CR 39.
Some of the major changes planned for CR 39 include utilizing a median where possible, and the use of a center turn lane in place of the median in specific high left turn rate locations, such as those along the business corridor immediately west of Tuckahoe Lane. Other changes included in the plan are the creation of right turn lanes where feasible, and inclusion of roundabouts and creating shoulders where feasible. Also set out in the long-term plan are bus shelters and bus turnouts at sites coordinated with Suffolk County Transit.
Neely explained that funding for the LTP is in question because the federal “10 year rule” deadline will be reached in January 2010. In order to keep this project eligible for federal funding, by that date, the county has to begin acquisition of commercial and residential land along the shoulder areas and the planned roundabout at the intersection where Flying Point Road and Route 27 meet CR 39.
The goals of the LTP and changes to CR 39 are to improve safety, traffic flow, adjacent property access and roadway aesthetics. The draft resolution, which was being discussed at the work session on Friday states that intentions include minimizing the roadway width and takings as well as encourage the use of public transportation.
Neely explained that the LTP must be done in phases, and will take approximately five years to complete.
At the work session, Neely gave an update on what has occurred over the last few years in response to the changes along CR 39. He explained that the town held special public meetings with emergency services, the various Citizens Advisory Committees (CACs) and members of the police force in 2007. In February 2008, there was a broader meeting, in which the county and the town met with property owners along CR 39. At the meeting, the town was able to get “good feedback” according to Neely.
“We don’t want to be portrayed as not being supportive of this plan,” Kabot said on Friday about the LTP. She informed the room that the federal government is funding 80 percent of this $50 million project and “we don’t want that money to disappear,” she continued.
Neely gave explanations as to why all these topics have to be covered in the final plan. He said that the bus route along CR 39 – the S92 – is the second most popular bus route in the county.
Further he said, pedestrians and their safety is a major concern, for both business owners and traffic moving through the area. Pedestrians crossing CR 39 have been a great cause for concern, but so has the reduced number of pedestrians frequenting businesses along the road.
“It is even hard with the sidewalk that is there now,” councilwoman Nancy Graboski said.
“Which is why the long term plan is so critical,” Kabot responded,Â turning everyone’s attention back to the draft resolution on the table for discussion. “We don’t want to lose this money from the federal government.”
The supervisor also said that a big concern is for water connections for fire hydrants along the CR 39, adding them to both sides of the road. She said running a fire hose across the road would cause 30,000 vehicles to use an alternative route – old Montauk Highway – and could potentially stop traffic for three to four hours.
“But that will be costly,” she added.
“All this is, is a joint letter of the town board, saying that we support this,” Kabot said of the draft resolution.
If approved at the next town board meeting, the draft resolution will be sent to local politicians including Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr., Senator Kenneth LaValle, and Congressman Tim Bishop.