Sidewalk Construction Will Mean Regular Lane Closures for Two Years on County Road 39 - 27 East

Sidewalk Construction Will Mean Regular Lane Closures for Two Years on County Road 39

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The Suffolk County project building sidewalks on both sides of County Road 39 from Tuckahoe Road to Boathouse Road will see construction and lane closures day  and night  for two years, except in the red area shown above.

The Suffolk County project building sidewalks on both sides of County Road 39 from Tuckahoe Road to Boathouse Road will see construction and lane closures day and night for two years, except in the red area shown above.

The map above depicts , with the black line, sidewalks planned along County Road 39 in Southampton.

The map above depicts , with the black line, sidewalks planned along County Road 39 in Southampton.

Kitty Merrill on Mar 8, 2023

A Suffolk County project to install sidewalks along County Road 39 in Southampton may result in lane closures on the busiest highway on the East End for at least the next two years.

The county’s $9.6 million project is expected to commence this fall, and construction will continue through the fall of 2025, with county workers closing eastbound and westbound lanes, both during the day and at night — depending on which section of the road is being worked on — on a rotating basis.

On Monday, March 6, officials from the Suffolk County Department of Public Works hosted an informational Zoom presentation detailing plans to construct sidewalks on both sides of County Road 39 for a 1.9-mile stretch from Tuckahoe Road to Boathouse Road. It was, they said, the only time they’d present the plan to the public.

Speaking to the travel turmoil the closures may cause, officials three times used the idiom: “You’ve got to break some eggs to make an omelet.”

One attendee, business owner Jonathan Ford, said, “This sounds torturous.”

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, who co-hosted the meeting, explained that the timing of construction had been formulated to limit disruption.

Jeffrey Dawson, the county’s director of highway engineering, explained the construction plan. Officials worked “very diligently,” he said, to identify times of traffic volume and adjusted the work schedule accordingly. There would always be one lane open in each direction, with closures necessary due to the narrow shoulders.

He assured attendees that the project would be completed in time for the 2026 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.

Not long after the sidewalk work is completed, another project will see the resurfacing of County Road 39 from Sunrise Highway to North Sea Road, thanks to federal infrastructure aid.

Sidewalk construction won’t commence until after peak commuter times, and the schedule also takes into account seasonal traffic variations. Displaying a frame depicting each month of the year, Dawson noted that eastbound lane closures will not be permitted on Fridays due to high traffic volumes.

Daytime construction on the eastbound side won’t begin until 10 a.m. during December, January and February; it will cease at 6 p.m. In March and November, the schedule will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

During April, May, and October, work on the eastbound side won’t start until 1 p.m. and will run until 9 p.m. In September, it will run from 3 to 10 p.m. Summertime will see later starts and stops — from 4 to 10 p.m. in June and July, and from 5 to 10 p.m. in August.

Daytime construction on the westbound side flips, beginning each day at 6 a.m. and running until as late as 1 p.m. in December through April. During the season, it will end earlier — at noon in May and November, at 11 a.m. in June and October, and at 10 a.m. in July, August and September.

The plan to work nights — from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. in the eastbound lane Sundays through Thursdays, and 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Mondays through Fridays — excludes a section of the road from approximately Hill Station Road to Shrubland Road due to residential homes on the road along the corridor. A Google map view shows just 18 residences along that section of the project.

The reluctance to undertake the project with only nighttime construction was a point discussed.

County officials said they are not averse to that method but would need to know it’s acceptable to homeowners. It is an option to do the project wholly at night — if residents are willing to put up with the noise, chief engineer William Hillman said.

He noted that “the work is constantly traveling.” Workers may toil at one specific section of the road for three days installing drainage, then move up to the next section. They’ll come back for curbs, then move, then come back for the sidewalk, move on, and back again for final grading.

With the timespan for public input short — the bidding process begins in June, and officials want written public comment not later than the end of April — Stephanie McNamara, chairwoman of the North Sea Citizens Advisory Committee, suggested a door-to-door survey of homeowners in the “daytime only” section of the project.

Meeting attendees also raised brows at the notion of planned chain-link fencing along hilly sections of the project where retaining walls will be installed. Fleming wondered if the community could weigh in on how the fence might look. Hillman said they’d do their best to find something that fits the local aesthetic. The original plan calls for black vinyl-coated link fence. Some 52 percent of the project, or 6,360.4 feet, will need retaining walls, with a maximum height of 3 feet, and fencing.

Town Trustee Anne Welker, a candidate for Suffolk County legislator this fall, echoed concern about fencing at the entrance to the town, as did McNamara. She also worried that should a car run off the road, a pedestrian could get pinned. There’s nowhere to go if a car jumps the curb.

Hillman agreed that the plan is “not ideal” in terms of the conflict between vehicles and pedestrians, but it will be much better than existing conditions. “This is what we can fit,” he said.

“This will tremendously affect our residents,” Town Engineer Thomas Houghton asserted. The timing and the traffic are his greatest concern.

He asked whether the project would coincide with plans to rebuild the railroad bridge near Gravel Hill Road in Hampton Bays, which will warrant closure of Montauk Highway. While Hillman declined to provide details of the bridge project, he said the two will not overlap.

Councilwoman Cyndi McNamara noted that while construction won’t take place during normal commuter hours, a lot of people changed their commute to be outside that window. She asked whether the construction hours might be flexible. Hillman said officials would have to stick to any hours detailed in contracts.

Dawson provided additional details of the work. It will include a new drainage system added where needed, replacement of traffic and pedestrian signals and the addition of a southbound right turn lane at Tuckahoe Road.

Ford questioned how important the project really was. There are bigger issues that need addressing on County Road 39, he opined. He said there aren’t many pedestrians in the area.

Fleming disagreed. Bus ridership in the area provides clues as to how many people are walking along the highway. Hillman spoke of driving home after a night meeting and seeing a woman pushing a stroller in the traffic lane. Photos of “deer paths” created by pedestrians were shown.

“County Legislator Bridget Fleming should be applauded for advocating for and securing significant funding for this much-needed pedestrian safety project,“ Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who observed the presentation, said Tuesday.

Asked to weigh in on the sidewalk plan, Town Highway Superintendent Charles McArdle said, “On the one hand, this project will be a perfect opportunity to add westbound merge lanes at Shrubland Road, Tuckahoe Road and St. Andrew’s Road, which would ease backed up traffic in residential areas in the afternoons.

“On the other hand,” he continued, “once the sidewalks are completed, the maintenance and snow removal will be the responsibility of the Southampton Town Highway Department. This will cause the need for additional staffing and a tax increase to our residents.”

Although the county will not be holding any other public informational sessions, they will accept written input via email at Public.Works@suffolkcountyny.gov.

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