Nearly 40 local residents told county officials Tuesday night they should include a third lane for ambulances to the proposed $60 million Smith Point bridge and solar panels to make it energy efficient.
In a public hearing at William Floyd High School, residents also criticized the proposed 55-foot height, which is meant to eliminate the need for a drawbridge for boats. They said the height also will greatly curtail the number of nearby residents who walk or bike across the span to get to the beach.
The hearing was the first public airing of Suffolk County’s proposal to replace the existing 1,218-foot bridge that has been in use for 57 years. The 35-foot high bridge leads to the county’s lone oceanfront beach, which attracts more than 300,000 people a year.
Several local emergency officials asked that the county consider a third lane to the span because of the number of calls received from the beach in crowded summer months. Current plans call for two 11-foot wide car lanes plus bike paths and sidewalks on each side.
Walt Meshenberg, a local ambulance volunteer, said emergency calls from the beach increase by 100 to 150 each year.
John Turner, representing Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, called for the county to include solar panels and wind turbines on the bridge — similar to London’s Blackfriars bridge, with 4,400 solar panels.
“It would create a lot of kilowatts and the supervisor believes it would be a wonderful iconic symbol,” Turner said. Suffolk Legis. Kate Browning (WFP-Shirley) also said she was “100 percent” in favor of putting solar panels on the bridge.
Longtime anti-nuclear activist Peter Maniscalco said adding solar power on the bridge would be “a sign of scientific wisdom.” Local resident Mark Koch called solar panels a “noble idea,” but said the panels would be better suited to the parking lot at the beach instead of a bridge over water, which could be susceptible to high winds.
Koch also criticized the planned span’s height.
“We bought our house so we could walk over to the beach as we got older,” he said. “This will be the equivalent of climbing over a seven story building and coming back. On a windy day, it will be very difficult.”
County officials, who have yet to complete the final design of the project, said further public comments are due by June 24.
Officials hope to begin construction in 2021 and open the new bridge two years later. The existing bridge will remain in operation until the work is completed, and will be razed by blasting.