August 23, 2006

Jay Wants More

From the "give him an arm and he'll take a leg" department: Now that County Executive Steve Levy has embraced the notion of interim traffic calming measures on County Road 39 in Southampton, Legislator Jay Schneiderman wants more.

He plans to file a bill geared towards implementing the same temporary traffic lane configuration currently underway during morning rush hour on Friday evenings in season. The goal is to ease congestion during the period of time many second homeowners and tourists are coming out to the Hamptons.

According to the legislator, originally his idea of providing two eastbound lanes during morning rush hour included the same provision for Friday night drive times. However, the concept ran afoul in the county department of public works. DPW reps opposed the measure, Schneiderman said, for safety reasons. They're not equipped to man the cones after dark.

The lawmaker's new proposal will look to hire a private company to set and remove traffic cones between the hours of 7 and 10 p.m. on Friday nights.

Implemented in mid-July, the temporary morning lane configuration has received almost universal accolades. Cones and no small number of uniformed law enforcement officers direct eastbound drivers into two, rather than just one lane beginning at the Route 27 merge near the Lobster Inn. The set up runs to North Sea Road.

The county covers the cost of staff to set the cones. Southampton Town is bucking up for the significantly more pricey tab for police presence. Recently, Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney said he plans to make allowances in his next budget that would permit the program to run next summer as well.

Last week, Levy announced plans that build on ideas considered earlier this year by both Schneiderman and Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi. An interim measure, the plan would use existing road shoulders to create the extra lane. Touted as more cost-effective, the road-widening plan would eliminate the need to acquire frontage from dozens of private properties along the roadway. That acquisition cost has been cited as an impediment to an earlier, long term solution.

According to a release from Levy's office, the CE plans to amend his capital budget to include funding for the new plan, with some construction slated to commence in 2007.

It was during a review of an earlier Levy budget at The Independent offices in East Hampton in the spring of 2005 when Schneiderman discovered what appeared to be a change in the timeline for funding improvements to CR39. Levy's capital plan pushed funding off to a later date than local officials anticipated. And a renewed, at times irate, push for action ensued.

Within a year, following myriad articles in the local and daily press, Levy listed traffic relief on CR39 among his top two priority road improvements countywide.

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