November 29, 2006
CR 39: Traffic Woes Revisited
Back in hell.
Mumbles of dismay heard on a recent Friday when the County Road 39 "cones and cops" plan was suspended due to poor weather can be heard in crescendo now that the trial program has reached completion for the year.
Commuters who found a slice of heaven in the pilot program, which sparked smooth sailing this summer along County Road 39, were bemoaning the cessation of the plan for the year. All too familiar with bottleneck traffic and twenty-minute commutes that morph into hour-plus marathons, residents are fearful that the months to come will see their worst fears realized.
Traffic is a huge issue, said one Southampton Town resident who travels from his home in Westhampton Beach to a security job in Southampton every day. "It's nasty. If you don't get to the beginning of CR 39 near Lobster Inn by 6:30 in the morning, you're doomed."
The wildly applauded program won rave reviews across the board this summer, so much so that Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney and the town board voted in September to reinstate the pilot plan, which included restrictions on left and U-turns, and modified the speed limit on a portion of CR 39 to 30 mph during the morning rush hour until the day after Thanksgiving.
While a crowd pleaser, a number of businesses on the stretch felt the heat as a dearth of left turns signaled death to their profits.
In September, Heaney worked to put together some additional funding, including $20,000 to help defray costs of the program from the Town of East Hampton, and said the decision to extend the program stemmed from the horrid realities of traffic. "The back-ups are maddening as tens of thousands of people are trying to get to work in the mornings."
But, although the program's end was dreaded by many, Heaney commented Monday that his office had received no complaints generated by traffic so far. "Traffic is generally less impacting at this time of year," he said. "It will pick up dramatically come next April."
The supervisor reminded that the board considered next spring's influx of traffic when establishing the start and stop times of the "cones and cops" program for the upcoming season. The program, which the town provided for in the 2007 budget, is scheduled to start up again in April and run through November 2007.
As for any complaints that may be generated by an influx of traffic this fall, the supervisor said, "You regulate for regular conditions, not the abnormalities."
Heaney doesn't see any major traffic snarls in the foreseeable future. "We know that when we get to Thanksgiving, a lot of the heavy traffic and seasonal trade parade issues abate. There aren't as many landscapers or yard-related contractors on the road."
Heaney said he and the board are content in having identified the beginning and end of the heavy traffic season – and are pleased with the overwhelming support the pilot plan's kick-off season sparked. "I think we had a very successful program."