Alex Kriegsman, a member of the Sag Harbor School Board and a parent of school-age children, lives on Route 114 in North Haven, so he knows firsthand just how busy the road is.
With the New York State Department of Transportation pledging to resurface the road all the way from Stephen Hands Path in East Hampton to the South Ferry next year, Mr. Kriegsman says the time is perfect to tweak the design to make the road safer for pedestrians and bicyclists to make their way to and from Sag Harbor for work, play, or even school.
“I have purposefully not gotten specific about it because I’m not a highway designer,” said Mr. Kriegsman, who is an attorney. “But I thought if we could get the DOT to look at it as design professionals, they might be able to come up with something.”
So far, Mr. Kriegsman has limited his proposal to the area from the Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge to the North Haven traffic circle. He has suggested the possibility of shifting bike lanes, which currently run along both sides, to one side of the road, with space reserved for pedestrians, preferably with some type of barrier between them and the vehicular lanes.
“I figured I’d start modestly,” he said of the short section of road. “But I think people would use it. They love to walk into town, but it is dangerous.”
Other elected officials have taken notice, including the Sag Harbor School Board, which backed the proposal, and the North Haven and Sag Harbor Village boards.
New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. has written to Mr. Richard B. Causin, the DOT’s regional director, asking him to give serious consideration to Mr. Kriegsman’s proposal, as has Sag Harbor Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy.
“As someone who walks from the Village of Sag Harbor to Long Beach daily, I have seen more pedestrians and cyclists traversing this busy roadway,” Mr. Thiele wrote. “The Village of Sag Harbor is brimming with shops, restaurants, galleries and the new John Steinbeck Memorial Park at the foot of the bridge. Installation of a walking path would enable people to go by foot to town as well as allow children from North Haven to safely walk to school.”
Mayor Mulcahy also wrote in support of the proposal, writing that improved bike and walking paths on Route 114 would mesh well with the village’s goal of adding paths along its waterfront.
Plus, she said, it might help reduce traffic. “I’m not certain how familiar you are with Sag Harbor, but our very busy downtown is filled with cars coming from the North Haven bridge every summer day,” she wrote. “If a bike/walking path could help alleviate even a little of this traffic by encouraging North Haven residents to come to town by bike or foot that would be remarkable.”
This week, Mr. Thiele said he had yet to hear from Mr. Causin. “We’ll see what’s the response from the DOT to the concept,” he said. “If it is possible to separate pedestrians from the roadway, that alone would be helpful.”
With the state staring at a $14-plus billion deficit, Governor Andrew Cuomo has begun to warn municipalities that they should brace themselves for reductions in aid and other spending cuts, but Mr. Thiele said he did not expect the repaving project to be affected by those concerns.
Much of the funding comes from the federal government, while the state’s portion is in the capital budget, which is funded through long-term borrowing. Plus, he said, such infrastructure projects create jobs, which are sorely needed as the economy slowly recovers from the pandemic.
Mr. Kriegsman said if the project is done, it could serve as a valuable pilot program for other mixed-use road projects in and around Sag Harbor. “We’ve been talking for a long time that we have a traffic and parking problem in the village,” he said. “If they do this and it’s successful, maybe they could extend it across Long Beach and back, creating a loop to and from the village.”