Calm Down (9/6/12)


If this summer has convinced us of anything, it’s the notion that traffic on the East End isn’t going away anytime soon.

We don’t mean that in the literal sense, of course. Things have obviously quieted down a bit since Monday’s Labor Day exodus from the land of summer fun.

But what we’re talking about here is the overall propensity of more and more people who all want to occupy the same space at the same time — be it a patch of blue sky or a stretch of black asphalt.

So while last week in this space we weighed in on some of the issues troubling us over at East Hampton Airport, this time around, we thought we’d turn our attentions to the issue of vehicular congestion on Noyac Road — specifically the troublesome stretch of roadway running in front of Cromer’s Market.

As a community, Noyac really got its start as a rural summer colony, and many of the homes and businesses still retain that quaint feel of yesterday.

But when it comes to traffic, Noyac is no longer on the unexplored back roads. For better or worse, Noyac Road is the bypass to Montauk Highway. Though residents would like that not to be so, we don’t foresee any chance of that happening.

Which is why we are encouraging Noyackers to start embracing the traffic calming efforts Southampton Town is seeking to install in front of Noyac’s primary commercial strip. We understand the controversy of the current plan — we, too, wonder about the wisdom of the town’s proposed fix. A stop sign at Noyac Road and Cedar Lane on the east side of Cromer’s seems like a logical solution to entering and exiting the shopping area. But on the west side of the complex, the town’s plan looks to funnel traffic from the shopping center onto a newly one-way Bay Avenue and through the quiet Pine Neck neighborhood. To get back on Noyac Road, cars would have to take a couple lefts in Pine Neck and exit the neighborhood on Elm Street, which would be one-way in the opposite direction.

Both the businesses and residents have trouble with this scenario. And we don’t blame them.

But that doesn’t mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. Because there’s a lot in this plan that we feel could help alleviate the traffic problems along the corridor.

While the businesses worry that the town’s proposed changes to the parking configuration would discourage customers from pulling in, we’re not sure we agree. As a matter of fact, we know there are potential customers who often choose to pass by those businesses precisely because of the mayhem caused by cars pulling in and attempting to back out onto a busy Noyac Road. Separating the parking lot from the roadway makes good sense to us, whether it’s done through a raised brick median, as proposed by the town, or in some other manner.

Similarly, the island proposed in the middle of Noyac Road to separate east and westbound traffic and provide a turn lane into the shopping center will not only cut down on driver confusion as to where to enter the complex, but it will add a touch of landscaping and visual interest in a hamlet that lacks a real “downtown.” It will also narrow the road which, studies show, works as a traffic calming device in its own right by slowing traffic and making it easier for pedestrians to cross.

And that’s something no speed limit sign has yet to accomplish, as Noyac residents can attest.

Are there problems with this plan? Absolutely. But standing resolutely by the sentiment that Noyac Road shouldn’t be used as a by-pass while rejecting any of the town’s attempts to slow the traffic simply isn’t living in reality.

Like the planes and helicopters landing in East Hampton, this is traffic we don’t feel is going away any time soon. Love them or hate them, stop signs and medians do have a way of slowing things down.

For too long, Noyac Road has been ruled by the culture of the car. While not perfect, this plan goes a long way toward bringing in the type of proven engineering that really does reinstate a human scale back into the landscape. Kind of how Noyac was in the old days.

With that knowledge in hand, we encourage the residents and business owners of Noyac to get involved, work with the town and come up with a solution to make that stretch of roadway as, effective, safe — and convenient to customers and residents— as it possibly can be.