Almost five months after Barbara Tocci’s death, Flanders residents are still angry.
The 47-year-old grandmother from Hampton Bays was killed in a head-on collision with a Public Service Electric and Gas company truck along Flanders Road, also known as State Route 24, in January. Following the accident, many residents blamed the fatal crash on the condition of the worn and pothole-riddled road. Shortly after the crash, workers with the State Department of Transportation, which is responsible for the upkeep of the road, began filling in the potholes, explaining that a resurfacing could not be completed until the spring at the earliest.
But now that the weather is improving, many hamlet residents think that the time has come for the state to step up and fix the problem for good.
And it appears that help could soon be on the way.
On Monday, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said he is optimistic that the state could begin repaving Flanders Road, from the traffic circle in Riverside all the way to Hampton Bays, sometime after Labor Day.
“Based on my conversations with the DOT, I fully expect them to announce a paving project that will begin in the fall,” Mr. Thiele said.
Mr. Thiele, who said he is trying to secure between $10 million and $15 million for the project, explained that he and State Senator Kenneth LaValle started inquiring about fixing the road months before Ms. Tocci’s death. “We felt the road’s condition was bad, and this winter made it worse,” he said. “Ever since Barbara’s accident, we’ve doubled our efforts.”
Some hamlet residents, meanwhile, said they still intend to voice their unhappiness about the situation.
“I’m furious and I’ve had enough,” said Flanders resident Tanya Zaleski, who last week started a Facebook group called “Fix Flanders Road Now!”
She is planning a rally for this Saturday, May 10, at 11 a.m., next to the David W. Crohan Community Center on Flanders Road, to protest the deteriorating conditions of the road. She said it will be a “friendly demonstration.”
“This winter was harsh, I understand that, but they found time to fix [Route] 27,” she said, referring to the 11-mile stretch of Montauk Highway between Southampton Village and East Hampton that is now being repaved.
Mr. Thiele explained that the work, which will be completed over the next two years and is expected to cost just under $7.6 million, was scheduled well before the fatal accident in Flanders.
Officials with the DOT did not return calls this week seeking comment regarding the repaving of Flanders Road.
Ms. Zaleski said she drives on Flanders Road almost every day and is appalled at its condition. She also took issue with the drivers who zip down the road at “like, 75 mph,” ignoring the speed limit, which varies from 30 to 50 mph along the highway.
“If you’re going to use it as a major artery to get to the Hamptons, you need to fix it,” she said.
She added that she founded her new group after seeing a post about the repaving work on the east side of the Shinnecock Canal. “It just set me off,” she said.
Ms. Zaleski’s group has caught the attention of many Facebook users as “Fix Flanders Road Now!” already boasts more than 450 members less than a week after its launch. Members of the group have posted photos and testimonials about the dangers of the road and the consequences of past accidents.
“Nobody’s doing anything about it,” she said, prior to learning that the DOT could complete the work this fall. “I just want some attention to see where it goes.”