Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor presented the Town Board with a new version of plans to redesign Noyac Road where it passes Cromer’s Market and the parking lot that serves the market and the Whalebone General Store.
In contrast to plans that Mr. Gregor had pushed earlier this year, the new design appears to have the support, at least initially, of residents and the business owners who will be most affected.
“It’s been a long road,” Mr. Gregor told board members last Thursday. “We believe we have a consensus with the property owners.”
Owners of both Cromer’s and the Whalebone thanked Mr. Gregor for his efforts to assuage concerns they had about earlier designs. Elena Loreto, chair of the Noyac Civic Council, which had led the parade of objections to the initial plan, applauded some of the changes and said she would bring the project to her group next month.
“I’d like to thank Alex for finally coming up with a plan here that we’re all happy with,” said Tony Lawless, owner of Cromer’s Market. “There are a couple of little things that we’re going to work over with Alex, but other than that I’m happy we have come to a conclusion. I’m not opposed to this at all—I think it’s a great plan. Hopefully, we can do it.”
The popularity of Mr. Lawless’s roadside market is largely the impetus for the years-long effort to make the road in front of it safer for his customers. The parking lot for Cromer’s and the Whalebone is basically just a shoulder of Noyac Road, and cars exiting the lot must back out directly into the lane of traffic. With commuter traffic using Noyac Road as a bypass to the congested highway climbing steadily, reaching as many as 12,000 car trips per day, the stretch of Noyac Road has become a major safety concern.
The latest design abandons an earlier plan to make Bay Avenue a one-way street. Instead, it will prohibit left turns from the tiny neighborhood street and will bar those coming out of the western end of the retail stores’ parking lot from heading east. Residents on Bay Avenue who plan to travel east will have to loop around to the intersection of Elm Street and Noyac Road to make the left turn. Cars coming from Cromer’s or the Whalebone will have to exit at the eastern end of the parking lot if they plan to head east.
The new design keeps the main components of the original plan: the construction of a 3-foot-wide concrete curb separating the stores’ parking lot from the roadway, with exits at the eastern and western ends. The new parking lot will contain 20 parking spaces and a 24-foot right-of-way for cars to travel both east and west within the separate parking area.
A concrete divider in the roadway itself will also serve to slow traffic down as it approaches the parking lot and a turn lane will allow drivers to decelerate if they plan to turn into the lot.
“What we’ve observed is that there is a lot of speeding and confusion,” Mr. Gregor said. “We’re trying to get the speed through there down to 15 or 20 mph. Some people don’t drive correctly, and they’re aggressive, and this is just trying to rein them in.”
The original plans presented by Mr. Gregor were actually the seventh incarnation in the last nine years of efforts by the Highway Department and consultants to make Noyac’s de facto hamlet center safer.
Those plans, however, brought a deluge of criticism from residents, mostly objecting to a proposal to make Bay Avenue a one-way street, and sparked a rift between the Town Board and Mr. Gregor.
Residents said the one-way restriction would force more cars, and possibly commercial delivery trucks servicing the stores, to travel through their quiet neighborhood. They pleaded with the Town Board to abandon the plans and the board, in turn, asked Mr. Gregor to try other options, like rumble strips and signs, to slow traffic rather than redesigning the roadway.
Mr. Gregor was adamant that the parking lot should be separated from the roadway. He said residents had proven to be displeased with almost any plan presented to them—referencing the half dozen previous attempts—and that he was going to move forward with the work in the interest of the general public.
When the Town Board refused to put the project out to bid, the highway superintendent put it out to bid on his own, though he would not be able to accept the bid without Town Board approval. On Thursday, Mr. Gregor said that he had accepted a $500,000 bid for the work from South Fork Asphalt that he now hoped the Town Board would approve.
Mr. Gregor said once the bids are approved, the Long Island Power Authority would start working on plans to relocate power lines along the stretch of roadway to make way for the new traffic lanes. He said he expected the work would get under way sometime after the summer.