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Board seeks grant for $3.2M North Ferry traffic solution

Greenport Village will authorize up to $3.2 million in bonding to come up with a solution to traffic congestion near the North Ferry dock and adjacent roadways such as Wiggins Street and Third Street.

But officials said that doesn’t mean they are borrowing $3.2 million all at once, as the village will be applying for a state Department of Transportation grant to offset the costs.

The grant, which consists of Federal Highway Administration funding allocated by the state, would start with $400,000 for preliminary design, according to village administrator Paul Pallas. The grant has a September deadline to commit the money.

The Village Board, at its meeting last Thursday, also voted unanimously to solicit an engineering and fee proposal from Suffolk County Local Design Services’ list of approved design professionals for work on the “North Ferry transportation hub” project.

The specifics of the project are yet to be determined, although the village has had a committee comprised of Wiggins Street residents and representatives of the North Ferry, the Railroad Museum of Long Island and the East End Seaport Museum, which has come up with a number of proposals. In addition to road improvements, the project would involve improvements in pavement, drainage, lighting, markings, signage and other work.

“To move the project forward to work on the grant proposal, we have to show that we have the money to cover the project, and the whole project is $3.2 million,” Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said. “So we’re proposing the bond to show that money is in place for the project.”

He said the funding is an 80-20 match, in which the village and North Ferry would each pay 10% and the grant would cover 80%.

“We’re not laying any money out,” he said. “We have to show this before I can get the grant moving.”

Resident Bill Swiskey said North Ferry is the sole beneficiary of this proposal, not the village.

“That’s your opinion,” Mr. Hubbard said. “The people on Wiggins Street feel very different.”

The grant cannot be applied for by a private entity, so the grant is being applied for by the village, the mayor said. He said the state has indicated it is committed to this project.

Mr. Swiskey asked if that is in writing. Mr. Hubbard said it is not.

“Then you have nothing,” Mr. Swiskey said.

Chatty Allen, who drives a school bus in this part of Greenport, urged the board to approve the grant application.

“If this gets turned down tonight, I think it’s going to be five years before something gets done,” she said.

Wiggins Street resident Ron Nelson, who heads the committee looking for solutions to the traffic problems by the transportation hub, also urged the board to approve the application.

But he acknowledged, “Funding something like this has not proven to be all that easy … there might be some risk here, but if we do nothing, this opportunity is going to vanish.”

Caption: A line of cars waiting for the North Ferry builds up along Wiggins Street in 2016. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

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