Long-term plans to improve County Road 39 from Sunrise Highway to the intersection of Montauk Highway and Flying Point Road are continuing and must be put in place before January 10, 2010, in order to receive federal dollars.
According to the official time clock, federally funded projects must begin within 10 years of being initiated. Since plans to enhance the thoroughfare began in 2000, Suffolk County and Southampton Town officials are now under the gun.
In November, county engineers informed the Town Board about the deadline and said in order to take action to stop the clock the board would have to come up with a consensus for the roadway’s design elements and improvements. At that meeting, William Hillman, chief engineer for the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, and Gil Anderson, the department’s commissioner, estimated that the cost of the project could run as high as $70 million.
The price tag for the work done to relieve the congestion on the busy roadway, which was completed just before Memorial Day, was $13 million.
At a work session on Friday, the Southampton Town Board discussed a resolution with Tom Neely, the town’s director of public transportation, that defines a clear set of goals and objectives for the enhancements.
“We want to emphasize to the county that we have a consensus for future improvements,” Town Supervisor Linda Kabot said. “I don’t want federal funding to disappear. I don’t want to kill this project due to a lack of consensus.”
Mr. Neely said “universal consensus” would likely never be achieved but expressed confidence that the town was moving in the right direction. The Town Board may vote on the resolution at its next meeting on Tuesday, January 27.
The overall goals for the future improvements, as outlined in the draft resolution, are increased traffic flow, improved roadway aesthetics, the addition of turning lanes, traffic lights and shoulders and the minimal acquisition of land needed to execute the plans.
Specific design elements also include the installation of bus turnouts and shelters and pedestrian walkways. The town would also like to see any future power lines along the roadway buried and wants to coordinate those efforts with the Long Island Power Authority and the town’s planning department. Ms. Kabot said she would like to have fire hydrants on both sides of the road so that in emergencies, hoses would not have to run across the street, stalling traffic.
“That’s more costly,” the supervisor said. “But it’s critical for public safety.”
Limiting curb cuts along the thoroughfare to increase access and reduce turning conflicts are also goals for the long-term plans.
The rush to draft a plan, or a Design Approval Document, is aimed at stopping the 10-year clock. Back in November Mr. Anderson told the members of the Town Board that in better economic times projects failing to beat the 10-year clock were often rolled over. But with the current faltering economy, that is no longer the case, Mr. Anderson said.
At the meeting, Mr. Hillman suggested that the town stop the clock by getting shovels in the ground on the western portion of the roadway near the intersection of North Sea Road. That work, Mr. Hillman noted, does not require the acquisition of land and the $4 million federal earmark necessary to complete the work, roughly a one-mile stretch from the 7-Eleven to Montauk Highway, is on hand.