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Big Overhaul Ahead for Major Springs Artery

Thu, 05/16/2024 - 08:06
The East Hampton Town Hall meeting room was packed to capacity on May 8 as Suffolk County officials kicked off the public comment process for the planned reconstruction of Three Mile Harbor Road.
Christine Sampson

Invited by the Suffolk County Department of Public Works to a meeting about the proposed overhaul of Three Mile Harbor Road on May 8, comments poured in from East Hampton and Springs residents who travel the road nearly every day.

“If there’s one intersection in town that I’ve nearly had accidents at several times, that’s the intersection,” said Hy Mariampolski, referring to where Three Mile Harbor Road and Springs-Fireplace Road meet. “I consider that intersection the most problematic.”

“I think it’s important that a roundabout concept be considered with all the other concepts that are there right now,” said Loring Bolger.

“I think it’s great that it’s being repaved,” said another resident, who lives on Three Mile Harbor Road near Jackson Street (and who did not state his name). “It’s long overdue . . . but I think what this meeting is showing is one of the biggest concerns is the traffic — controlling very dangerous intersections.”

Suffolk County is planning a $14.5 million reconstruction of North Main Street and Three Mile Harbor Road from Cedar Street to Copeces Lane — about two and a half miles, or the entire length of what’s considered County Road 40, but not all of Three Mile Harbor Road itself.

“This project is at the preliminary engineering phase. No final decisions have been made,” said Bill Hillman, the county’s chief engineer of highway construction. “It’s a very appropriate time for us to hear input from the community.”

Right now, the “project objectives” include reconstruction of the road; adding a continuous curb and sidewalk and “buffered bike lanes” on both sides; adding new storm drains and street signs; building retaining walls in certain areas where the natural brush is impacted by the project; lowering the speed limit from 40 to 35 miles per hour, and installing new traffic signals, plus an extended left-turn lane, at Cedar Street and Collins Avenue.

The goal is to have a final design by this fall to go out to bid, with bid opening projected for the fall of 2026 and with the estimated start time in the spring of 2027. That’s what elicited murmurs from the crowd.

“In a nutshell,” Mr. Hillman said, “if you liked what we did on County Road 41 [Springs-Fireplace Road], we’re going to really replicate that on this roadway.”

But not everyone likes what the county did on Springs-Fireplace Road.

“I think it looks like western Suffolk,” said Bruce Nalepinski. “I don’t think East Hampton wants to look that way. That’s aesthetics.”

He continued by bringing up several factors that are likely to increase traffic on Three Mile Harbor Road, including the pending zone change and rebuilding of the building that is now home to a nightclub, near the intersection of Jackson Street; the possible addition of a new and much larger structure for Project Most at the site of the Neighborhood House; the impending completion of the East Hampton Housing Authority’s new Three Mile Harbor apartment complex, and the continued popularity of Round Swamp Farm, “which we all love . . . but they don’t have [enough] parking.”

There is also the need to add crosswalks in certain spots, particularly where hikers typically cross. “If you don’t address crosswalks . . . I think you’re making a big mistake,” Mr. Nalepinski said.

Mr. Hillman responded to the crosswalk question by saying he has concerns. “We call this a high-speed roadway — reluctantly. An uncontrolled crosswalk gives me cause for concern. I get concerned when we provide [it] and it doesn’t tell the motorist to stop. The pedestrian can feel like ‘I pushed the button and they’re supposed to stop’ . . . but they don’t always. In downtowns I feel they are very, very effective. We are comfortable that when motorists are downtown, they react to them. On high-speed roadways I’d like to see that operate a little more before we start doing those things.”

The idea of a roundabout seemed very popular among the attendees, some 110 in the maxed-out capacity of the Town Hall meeting room. But a roundabout is not in the plans at the moment because it would add significant expense and overlap with roads and parkland that fall within East Hampton Town’s jurisdiction, the Springs-Fireplace Road intersection in particular.

“Constructing a circle in the middle of an operational roadway is no easy feat,” Mr. Hillman said. “What could be done? Easily, a traffic signal. It’s much more cost effective and we can install it very quickly. Those are the kinds of things that are on the table. Right now the complications of a roundabout preclude it.”

But Brian Carabine rejected the idea of a traffic light at that intersection. “There will be too much stacking because of the tremendous amount of traffic,” he said.

“I do not think a traffic signal is going to work there during rush hours,” Richard Whalen added. He also brought up the troublesome curb situation where Abraham’s Path terminates at Three Mile Harbor Road. “Even if you’re familiar with the area, it’s not a very easy intersection” to navigate,” he said.

Mr. Hillman thanked the attendees for their feedback and encouraged them to submit written comments and suggestions by email to [email protected]. Suffolk County Legislator Ann Welker will also act as a liaison between the town and the county; her office line is 631-852-8400.

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