Dangerous North Main Street underpass will be replaced this fall

Railroad Bridge Update




A stock-in-trade image for local newspapers for decades — a photograph of a box truck, its top peeled back after striking the railroad trestle on North Main Street in East Hampton Village — will be a thing of the past come November when the bridge is replaced with a higher one.

Representatives of the Long Island Rail Road appeared before the village board on April 18 to provide an overview of the final phase of the construction project, which has been ongoing for months with workers shoring up the sides of the elevated right-of-way with a new retaining wall.

“This is a bridge we have been looking at and studying for many years,” said engineer John Kettell, who said the underpass with its 10-foot clearance is “one of the most at-risk we have on the railroad.”

As part of the project, a single new 119-by-16-foot prefabricated bridge will replace the two spans that currently cross North Main Street and Accabonac Road.

The new bridge will have a clearance of 14 feet, which “will essentially eliminate or at least reduce the number of hits,” Kettell said.

Project manager Daniel Knote said the bridge, which is being manufactured in Pennsylvania and will be shipped by barge from New Jersey to Mattituck, will arrive in East Hampton in early fall. He said it is expected to arrive no more than five days before a window from October 15 to November 10 when the last major construction, including drilling for support caissons and the lifting of the bridge into place, will take place.

Although he said there would be some closures of North Main Street during that period, it is possible one lane of the Accabonac Road underpass might remain open.

Kettell said residents who lived near the underpass would be able to get in and out of their driveways for the duration of the project. Knote added that the railroad will provide a landscaping plan to restore the area and replace three mature trees that need to be cut down and expected the job to be completed by the end of the year.

Leaf Blower Ban

After hashing over a proposal to limit the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in the summer, the board on Thursday set a May 17 hearing date for a new law that will prohibit their use by commercial landscapers between June 1 and Labor Day. The law would also prohibit the use of gas-power equipment, including lawn mowers, between the hours of 8 AM and 6 PM on weekdays, between June 1 and the second Friday in December, with stricter curfews on the weekends.

Earlier this month, Mayor Paul Rickenbach said he thought an exemption for the Maidstone Club and the village should be removed from the law. On April 18, Ken Koch, the club’s general manager, and John Genovesi, its grounds superintendent, appeared before the board to request that that not be done.

Koch said maintaining more than 200 acres of golf course was a complex undertaking that requires mowers to begin work as close to 6 AM as possible to get ahead of players who begin teeing off at 7:30 AM. He said requiring the mowers to wait until 8 AM would disrupt the schedule and possibly make it impossible for the club to hold some of the charity tournaments it holds.

“We are sensitive to the desire for quiet,” Koch said, noting that the club has already experimented with hybrid equipment and would be happy to use electric equipment when manufacturers bring more reliable models to market.

Genovesi said restricting the time lawnmowers can operate “really handcuffs us” and noted that the majority of the course is more than 200 feet from neighboring houses.

The board agreed the club should be exempted from the law. “The club is a tremendous asset to this village,” said Trustee Richard Lawler, adding that it was to the benefit of the village if its grounds are kept “pristine.”

Board members also agreed to exempt the village itself from the new law, although they agreed with Rickenbach who said, “I think the village should put its best foot forward” and try to lead by example.

Superintendent of Public Works Scott Fithian said it would be possible to establish “green zones,” where village workers would use electric equipment. He added, though, that if the village wanted to make the complete switch it would be a costly undertaking. The board agreed the village should adopt a policy to use quieter, less polluting electric equipment whenever possible, and Rickenbach pledged that the village would find the money to begin replacing its gas equipment.

Last-Minute Request

The board also heard from Don Horowitz, the owner of Wittendale’s Florist on Newtown Lane, who made an 11th hour appeal that the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce’s upcoming spring fair, scheduled for May 11, be moved to Herrick Park or moved up a week. The reason, he said, is that Mother’s Day weekend, which coincides with the fair, is his business’s busiest weekend. “It is our Black Friday,” he told the board.

During the fair, the street is shut down for most of the day, making it impossible for his customers to park in front of his store, he said. “If you can’t park somewhere, you go somewhere else,” he said.

“Are you asking for this upcoming fair?” asked Lawler. When Horowitz, replied, “If possible, yes,” Lawler responded, “I wish you had come a little earlier with this. I empathize with your position.”

“You have a legitimate complaint,” added Trustee Barbara Borsack. “It’s just so last-minute, I don’t know that that can happen.”

Board members agreed they would ask the village police to work with Horowitz to reduce the disruption to his business.

“We apologize there is such a conflict,” added Trustee Rosemary Brown. “We didn’t realize the ramifications to you from such a great event.”

“Your points are well-spoken,” added the mayor. “It won’t happen again.”

sjkotz@indyeastend.com