Two new train bridges at North Main Street and Accabonac Road in East Hampton Village were a long time coming — in fact, almost 125 years. Fed up with trucks repeatedly striking the spans, the Metropolitan Transit Authority and Long Island Rail Road found the money to raise the tracks by about four feet, the height they had been since 1895, when the rails first made it beyond East Hampton Village.
Something had to be done. The North Main Street bridge had only 10 feet of clearance beneath it, and the one at Accabonac about three inches less than that.
The project’s numbers were dazzling. According to the M.T.A., the new spans weigh 175 tons apiece. They were made in Lancaster, Pa., trucked from Pennsylvania and carried east on a barge on Long Island Sound around Orient Point to Shinnecock Inlet, then via road again to East Hampton. Drilling rigs used during the lengthy construction reached 120 feet below the ground. Each of eight huge caissons supporting the bridge was filled with 120 cubic yards of cement.
After a start in August 2018, the new bridges were put in service officially on Nov. 15. All in, the cost was about $21 million.
We were probably not alone in worrying that the new, taller trestles would change the feel of that end of town, which has been known since colonial days as the Hook. What we did not anticipate is that they seem to have changed the view for the better.
Now, as one approaches either side on foot or by car, the view of the streetscape beyond is better than it used to be. The effect is to open up the vista under the trestles, seeming to bring the two sides closer together and making a more coherent whole. Landscaping and natural growth will eventually soften the higher retaining walls under the tracks themselves, too.
East Hampton Village has gone to great lengths to maintain and improve the Hook. A hulking car dealership once stood on the corner of Main Street and Accabonac Road opposite the post office. It was removed and the property turned into a pleasing green expanse with money from the community preservation fund. On North Main, the village is now busy building a replica of the homestead of the acclaimed Dominy woodworkers, furniture makers, and watch and clock repair experts. Through the space under the tall trestle, we already get an inviting glimpse of the new-old house and restored workshops.
Rarely do infrastructure projects actually result in scenic improvement. How lucky for East Hampton that this work was one of the exceptions to the rule.