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Jul 8, 2019 4:27 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Road Work At Montauk Highway Intersections In Hampton Bays Raises Safety Concerns Among Some Residents

The intersection of Montauk Highway and North Road on Friday afternoon.
Jul 9, 2019 1:58 PM

As road work continues in Hampton Bays at the intersection of Montauk Highway and North Road, some local residents have raised concerns over traffic safety and questioned the need for Suffolk County’s reconfiguration of the intersection.

As part of the Maritime Planned Development District, approved by the Southampton Town Board in 2015, developers Gregg and Mitchell Rechler were required to work with the Suffolk County Department of Public Works to incorporate—and pay for—several roadway and safety improvements.

In December 2018, six months after breaking ground, the developers began work on the two-part project, which calls for the construction of 37 townhomes along the eastern side of the Shinnecock Canal, as well as the reconstruction of the former Canoe Place Inn nightclub to the west.

However, in order to accommodate the anticipated increase in traffic, Suffolk County Department of Public Works Chief Engineer William Hillman, in a previous interview, had explained that the Rechlers were required to reconfigure the county-owned intersections of Montauk Highway and Newtown Road, and Montauk Highway and North Road.

Mr. Hillman did not return requests for comment this week.

The changes include removing the entrance ramps along Montauk Highway and replacing them with “T-shaped” intersections on both sides of the Shinnecock Canal. Both Newtown Road and North Road will also be widened, and stop signs will be installed where they intercept with Montauk Highway.

Left and right turns will continue to be allowed onto Montauk Highway from North Road. Only right turns will be allowed onto Montauk Highway from Newtown Road, as is the current configuration, and a median will block access to the eastbound lane.

As a result, the status quo will remain: Motorists coming from Newtown Road must go westbound on Montauk Highway. Those who want to head east on Montauk Highway must then turn left—or make a U-turn, as many do—at the traffic light at Canoe Place Road.

The reconfiguring road work began at the intersection of Montauk Highway and North Road earlier this year and is nearing completion. At a recent Town Board work session, Mr. Rechler said that the road work at the intersection of Newtown Road and Montauk Highway would begin after Labor Day.

According to a traffic analysis completed in July 2012 by Melville-based Nelson & Pope Engineering, the construction of the townhouses, as well the restoration of the Canoe Place Inn, would increase traffic by roughly 79 vehicles during weekday peak hours and 203 vehicles on the weekends.

However, according to the analysis, the engineering firm concluded that the construction on either side of the canal would not have a “significant” impact on traffic. The level of service—essentially a grade offered by the New York State Department of Transportation—would remain the same.

At the time of review, the intersection of Montauk Highway and Newtown Road was rated a “B,” whereas the southbound left turn lane at the intersection of Montauk Highway and North Road was given an “F,” the worst possible rating.

Additionally, the Sunrise Highway entrance ramp—connecting Montauk Highway to North Road at Canal Road—was expected to continue operating at a level of “C” or better, with the exception of the Westbound Sunrise Highway ramp, which currently operates at an “E.”

Sight lines were also flagged as a concern in the engineering firm’s report.

According to recommendations, outlined in the American Association of State Highway and Transportation’s Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets, Newtown Road and Montauk Highway visual access was recommended to be in the realm of 335 and 480 feet, respectively.

As of 2012, Newtown Road access was recorded at 390 feet, and Montauk Highway was at 725 feet—both significantly higher than the association’s recommendations and illustrating the need for the aforementioned road work.

In an email on Monday, a Suffolk County Department of Public Works representative said that the changes were designed to simplify the intersections. In a previous interview, Mr. Hillman said both intersections “have an accident rate that is higher than the statewide average for similar facilities.”

In its review, Nelson & Pope pointed to State Department of Transportation data, which showed that, between January 2009 and December 2011, there were a total of 49 accidents reported at or in the vicinity of the two intersections.

Southampton Town Director of Public Transportation and Traffic Safety Thomas Neely attributed that data to sight lines, calling it a catalyst for the county’s redesign. “People needed to look 120 degrees over their back shoulder,” he said, adding that the latest design will increase sight lines and improve traffic safety.

Regardless, several Hampton Bays residents have raised concerns over the changes.

John Capone recognized that the intersections were hazardous and suggested that a traffic circle be installed, calling it the “safest long-term option,” in a Facebook comment on Friday.

Others were skeptical, however, noting that there was not enough space to do so.

In an email on Monday, a Public Works representative wrote that county officials had not considered installing a traffic circle at either intersection.

Mr. Neely was ultimately supportive of the idea: “I do believe in them.”

However, Linda Hagen, another hamlet resident, argued on social media that the intersections were safer and easier to navigate, especially during peak hours, when she said that many commuters cut through the back streets to avoid heavy traffic on Sunrise Highway.

Ann Cryan added that traffic regularly backs up past Cedar Point Road since removing the entrance and exit ramps along Montauk Highway. “It’s terrible. There is not enough room when turning,” she said. “What was wrong with the intersection the way it was? Traffic moved smoothly.”

Lifelong Hampton Bays resident Allen Schneider agreed that the changes have slowed down traffic and caused delays. In fact, he explained that both intersections were originally constructed as “T-shaped intersections” with stop signs along Montauk Highway, adding that the entrance and exit ramps were installed to ease traffic congestion in the area.

“If you go back to the days before the new Montauk Highway Bridge, Newtown Road just came to a stop sign at Montauk Highway,” he said. “People wanting to turn left from Newtown Road to Montauk Highway had a real hard time. So by not knowing the history of that intersection, we are now doomed to repeat it.”

According to the Public Works representative, the intersections were, as Mr. Schneider said, “T-shaped” for at least 40 years. “Clearly, traffic conditions and driver behavior has changed considerably since then,” he said.

On Monday, Mr. Neely said that he did not play a large role in the county’s redesign; however, he said that he may conduct a traffic study of the intersections a year after their completion to determine if the design is working as intended. “I may do that to see how it’s working in a year,” he said.

Similarly, the Department of Public Works representative said that the county would reassess the design “after the contractor completes the intersection modifications and drivers have had time to acclimate to the new configuration.”

However, residents are concerned that another analysis of the intersections could lead to the installation of another traffic light—which they said would cause further traffic delays.

The county representative said that while there are currently no plans to install a signal at either intersection, county officials may implement “additional traffic control devices” in the future.

“Whoever made that intersection had too many drinks,” Hampton Bays resident Billy Markland wrote in a comment on Facebook. “It’s a do over.”

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By themarlinspike (542), Northern Hemisphere on Jul 12, 19 7:15 AM
Who had absolutely nothing to do with redesigning this County Road.

By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 13, 19 10:10 AM
1 member liked this comment
The merge worked better for westbound traffic than the stop sign. The eastbound Montauk Hwy. is poorly marked to turn onto North Rd.
By harbor hound (31), southampton on Jul 12, 19 9:07 AM
1 member liked this comment
And cars turning from eastbound Montauk Highway to North Highway now must intersect with those turning from North Highway to eastbound Montauk with an adjacent lane for west bound traffic to turn onto North Highway. Taking four independent turning situations and locating them together is a huge detriment to safety and efficiency.

Why has this been pronounced as a road improvement when it is clearly to allow more building? Why was the County so interested in donating public property to ...more
Jul 12, 19 2:01 PM appended by VOS
Be prepared for a similar "improvement" of the intersection of Newtown Road and Montauk Highway on the western side of the canal as more County owned land is gifted to the developers in front of the Canoe Place Inn.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jul 12, 19 2:01 PM
Maybe because we all want this project to succeed ! Why don't you ?
By 27dan (2854), Shinnecock Hills on Jul 12, 19 2:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
It is not a matter of wanting a project to succeed, it is about an ill-conceived project that was pushed through without regard to zoning, the master plan, economic sense, community support and the apparent theft of public property by politicians and gifting that property to private interests without any apparent compensation to the taxpayers.

Why are you okay with that?
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jul 12, 19 5:30 PM
Please let us know when you ask your questions and get the answers from the Town. Obviously, anything you get here is opinion, not fact. Or, better yet, go to the town website and read all the details.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 13, 19 10:11 AM
I read the data before the project was approved. There are no county documents in the proposal explaining how public property would be transferred to a private enterprise. There was no explanation of what the "improvements" would be. This deal was done under cover of darkness, shrouded from those who, as taxpayers, own the property in question and who, as motorists, use the roadways.

There was certain language that said traffic lights may be added in the future but they were not part ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jul 13, 19 12:23 PM
The success will come in the form of condo buyers getting discounted condos after they sit on the market for months due to the location and view. The developer may not be that happy with the result but a handful of holdout buyers will.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jul 12, 19 2:56 PM
Eliminating the MERGE lane for westbound traffic coming off the North Road is a serious mistake. I agree that there is something fishy about the developers getting a piece of OUR property! Did they pay for it? If not. why not?
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jul 12, 19 3:28 PM
Of course they paid ! like they usually do in Southampton, they pay under the table.
By Offmiller (1), Hampton Bays on Jul 13, 19 8:09 AM
Actually, in the same Facebook discussion, it was mentioned that the road originally ran over private property. The reporter chose not to include that part.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 13, 19 10:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
BB...that happens alot...reporters choosing to omit important information....things that make you go hmmm
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Jul 13, 19 10:32 AM
Would anyone be convinced that Montauk Highway itself ran across private property as it approached the old Shinnecock Canal bridge from both directions because they saw that mentioned on someone's Facebook page?

In the photograph above a utility pole exists near the bottom edge, just right of center; the shadow of that pole, falling across a pile of timbers or pilings lies along the approximate property line and would continue east, between the two white cars to the pole with the transformer ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jul 13, 19 12:37 PM
Whoever the traffic engineer was should be fired
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jul 12, 19 6:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
I I have used this intersection many times. No problem!
By BarryMcConnell (15), Hampton Bays, New York on Jul 12, 19 10:54 PM
Makes me think of the ridiculous roadwork done over by Cromer's in sag harbor. Or better yet, the post office parking lot in Southampton.
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Jul 13, 19 6:52 AM
Makes me think of the ridiculous roadwork done over by Cromer's in sag harbor. Or better yet, the post office parking lot in Southampton.
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Jul 13, 19 6:52 AM
Adding the condos and the event hall, have really screwed an already screwed pair of intersections. Further the HBIS planted trees that block line of sight in the median. HB Rallied and wanted to save CPI which gave the Rechlers (Wrecklers) the ace in the hand to force the # of condos which is excessive and the event hall. The people of HB did it to themselves and now have to live with it. Its approved so get used to it or move.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Jul 13, 19 7:25 AM
NSC, you seem to have a lot to say about what should and should not go on in HB for someone who indicates they live in North Sea. The road is not complete and I don't drive anymore so I am not weighing in. The CPI/Townhouse project was on the drawing board for years and the community was split. Many of the "old timers" that wanted to save the CPI are long gone since this project lingered too long. I know no one in HB that believes that this was a "perfect" project, but recognized that those ...more
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on Jul 15, 19 12:19 PM
I wonder who are the drivers who have difficulty with the intersection. I use this intersection daily, JUST OPEN your eyes its not that hard. As always there are a few people who feel the need to go off topic with these posts.
By MMP (7), hampton bays on Jul 13, 19 8:26 AM
do you make the left turn to go eastbound on MTK HWY while other commuters are turning across your face trying to get on North rd? Probably not, because its a mess AND dangerous.
By FarOutEast (16), Southampton on Jul 15, 19 12:10 PM
There will be traffic lights at both intersectiions installed within next couple of years because of the new poor design in regard to traffic flow. U -turns?
By Non-Political (125), Hampton Bays on Jul 13, 19 9:19 AM
The redesigns of north rd & montauk hwy are a huge failure. The reconstruction and elimination of a westbound montauk hwy merging lane has INCREASED traffic and DECREASED safety. Now a light NEEDS to be installed at the intersection of North rd & Montauk because there are no singular lanes for going east on north road or going east on montauk highway as there was previous. ITS A DISASTER AND A DANGER TO OUR RESIDENT'S SAFETY. Changes must be made for our safety.
By FarOutEast (16), Southampton on Jul 15, 19 12:10 PM
1 member liked this comment