Pity the drivers who must daily wend the pitted hellscape that is the East Hampton-Sag Harbor Road, better known as New York State Route 114.
Something is rotten in this asphalt. It was just two years ago this spring that the State Department of Transportation arranged to have the then worst sections repaved. You can note them today as you drive over them; they are the short, relatively smooth stretches bookended by wheel-rattlers of all shapes and sizes.
But the last time the state undertook a partial resurfacing of 114 was two years before that, when work was done on the portion from Stephen Hand’s Path to Main Street in East Hampton Village. The last time the roadway through to the North Haven ferry was paved was in 2002, supposedly, though we could not confirm that. And workers also sealed cracks in the road in the fall, for what it’s worth, to forestall some further damage. Looking this week for evidence the work was done was fruitless.
Whatever the Department of Transportation says has been done to the road, it has not been enough. Drivers, especially southbound at the moment, report being forced to slalom around nearly hidden axle-breaking pits, trying to avoid them at the last second. They also say forget about 114 at night, when it’s just about having to put a white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel and hang on. This key road between two communities is a mess, and it’s getting worse by the day.
It’s not like there isn’t money floating around Albany to get the road right. The 2020 state budget for the Department of Transportation is $3.9 billion, with another $4.4 billion in spending already planned for improving highways and bridges and other infrastructure for moving people and things around the state. There appear to be no plans for major work on Route 114 in East Hampton on the Transportation Department’s list of future priorities.
Even if there were money for road infrastructure, lax oversight and poor planning has eaten into funding that could have been spent on the actual public safety risk that Route 114’s terrible condition represents. In July, the state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, announced that nearly $7 million was squandered on the new Long Island Welcome Center on the Long Island Expressway because change orders, including a $4.8 million sewer system, had been left out of the plans as well as $200,000 for work that was completed but then removed or replaced.
In addition, overruns on the new Mario Cuomo Bridge, which replaced the Tappan Zee, may have exceeded $100 million, though the state has declined to release an actual number. The Thruway authority has also refused to say how much a programmable LED lighting system on the Cuomo Bridge cost; a much more modest light installation, on the Kosciuszko Bridge in Queens, was estimated at $4.5 million. Though lovely to look at, both of these expenses were unnecessary in the extreme. Irritating, too, that the Cuomo Bridge lights had not been operated since Thanksgiving. All that money spent on permanent color-shifting light shows should have instead gone to the state’s main failing roadways.
All in all, a village-to-village route in East Hampton Town might be a low priority for Albany. But maybe if we all scream a little bit louder when doing the pothole plunge, it will hear us and pay attention.