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Community complaints over making Noyac Road safer

Noyac Road in Sag Harbor where drivers speed

Noyac Road in Sag Harbor where drivers speed around the curving road. Cars go in and out of the store parking lots causing many accidents including one fatal. (Feb. 16, 2013) Credit: Randee Daddona

The curving road past Cromer's Country Market in Noyac is a dangerous stretch of highway, with 46 accidents and one fatality recorded there over the past three years.

Originally part of the Suffolk County road system, that stretch of Noyac Road was turned over to Southampton Town more than two years ago, and both county and town officials have been trying to figure out how to make the curve safer for a decade.

Now, with the town highway department nearly ready to accept bids on an ambitious half-million dollar road improvement project, some local residents are up in arms over the plan, which they say will create an undue hardship by making their streets one way. And the town board recently passed a nonbinding memorializing resolution urging highway Superintendent Alex Gregor to "go slow" on starting the project.

"If you paint lines on the road, people will just drive over them," Gregor said. But if "you put in a 6- inch curb, people pay attention."

The few hundred feet stretch of road is not easy to fix. It is wide, but has no shoulders and two small local streets, Bay Avenue and Elm Street, come out on Noyac Road within a few yards of each other. That brings much of the traffic from the Pine Neck community in and out at a single location, just before a curve in the road.

Cromer's Market and the two other nearby buildings have unregulated parking, put in long before town code required curbs. That means drivers pull in and out from anywhere in the lot, sometimes backing out into traffic.

There is a lot of traffic on that stretch of Noyac Road. A traffic count last April showed an average of 7,500 cars a day. Another, taken in the summer of 2004, showed 12,000 vehicles a day, Gregor said.

His solution -- one that Gregor said he inherited after reviews from town and county officials -- is to move the entire stretch of road south by 17 feet, put in a center turn lane to stack turning cars, and make the ends of Bay Avenue and Elm Street one way, requiring residents to use adjoining streets to complete a round-trip from their homes.

He would also put in a curb to limit where cars can leave the parking lots to get on the road. No land would have to be condemned to do the job.

At a town board meeting last week, several local residents urged the board to "defund" the road project, something town officials said they could not legally do, because the board had already voted for its highway capital improvements and that as an elected official, the highway superintendent has sole discretion on how to spend that money.

Noyac Civic Council member Chuck Neuman accused the board of paying "lip service" to the community complaints.

Town board member Chris Nuzzi said any solution to the problem is likely to have a negative impact on someone -- the businesses or residents or both.

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