By Stephen J. Kotz
The Southampton Town Board on Thursday agreed to move forward with a series of measures to improve pedestrian safety and improve the flow of traffic along Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton.
The board will take formal action at a special meeting on Thursday, February 1, which will be held after its regular 10 a.m. work session.
At that time, it will authorize L.K. McLean Associates, a Brookhaven engineering firm, to complete final plans, and Christine Fetton, the town’s director of municipal works, and Tom Neely, its director of public transportation and traffic safety, to file formal applications with the New York State Department of Transportation, which owns the road, to undertake a number of measures to improve pedestrian crosswalks and street lighting as well as reconfigure turning lanes to improve traffic flow through the hamlet’s business district and improve access to municipal parking lots.
Mr. Neely said the work could begin as early as June with the installation of new streetlights with the crosswalks tackled as early as fall.
The project will be funded largely by a $700,000 state grant that was secured by state Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Senator Kenneth P. LaValle following the death of Anna Pump, the owner of Loaves & Fishes and a cookbook author. Ms. Pump was struck and killed when she tried to cross the street at night in October 2015.
Crosswalks at the Bridgehampton Post Office, Thayer’s Hardware, the Hampton Library and the Bridgehampton School will be improved with better lighting, additional signs and pavement striping to help alert motorists to the presence of pedestrians.
Earlier versions of the designs called for raised pedestrian “bumpouts,” which are extensions of the sidewalk into the road at crosswalks, and center islands, to provide pedestrians a safe haven if traffic is heavy, but Ms. Fetton said the DOT had objected to those features and would only approve them if the town agreed to pay for their maintenance and to keep them cleared of snow during winter storms. Instead, those areas will be painted and the surface “stamped” to appear like brick or some other material, said Mr. Neely.
As part of the project, the DOT has agreed to reconfigure the intersections at the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike and Ocean Road, near the hamlet’s war monument, as well as the intersection at Corwith Avenue and School Street, near the Candy Kitchen. Mr. Neely said because the DOT will do that work, it will not count against the $700,000 in state funding.
The DOT will put in new pedestrian crosswalks across the highway on the west side of the turnpike, while removing an existing crosswalk on the east side of the turnpike. An additional crosswalk would cross Ocean Road at the monument.
At the Corwith Avenue and School Street intersection, the DOT plans to add new lights that would make it easier for traffic to turn onto and off of the highway. An existing crosswalk crossing Montauk Highway at the Candy Kitchen would be moved to the west side of School Street and a new crosswalk across the highway would be added on the east side of Corwith Avenue.
Board members did balk at one element of a plan to install new streetlights. The town has been working with the New York Power Authority to have new, LED, energy-efficient lights throughout town, and Ms. Fetton said it had agreed to add 12 new lights to existing utility poles the north side of Montauk Highway in front of the Bridgehampton Commons shopping center. When he heard the lights would be installed on 18-foot metal arms, Supervisor Jay Schneiderman expressed reservations.
“Eighteen-foot arms? How ugly is that?” he said. “It sounds horrible.”
Ms. Fetton said the arms would not appear that large from street level and would extend out about a third of the way across the road to provide light to both sides.
“That’s going to be kind of jarring,” added Councilwoman Christine Scalera.
Before signing off on that element of the plan, Mr. Schneiderman said he wanted to see a visual to better gauge the impact. “I just want to make sure that in our efforts to protect pedestrian safety we are not compromising our aesthetics,” he said. “I think you can do both.”