A traffic-calming plan 15 years in the making took a step closer to reality Monday when a land swap designed to improve the roadway around the Sound View in Greenport was approved by a committee of Suffolk County legislators.
The agreement, which would enable Suffolk County to shift and widen a portion of Route 48 and build medians in the roadway, passed in the county’s public works committee and is expected to be voted on by the full Legislature next Wednesday.
That section of highway has been the site of three fatal pedestrian crashes since 2007.
“This is a very heavily-traveled road … it would make it a lot safer,” said County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), the sponsor of the bill and chair of the committee.
The deal would see the owners of the popular hotel and its Halyard restaurant give a portion of the property it owns on the south side of the road, where it provides parking for guests and also has tennis courts, in exchange for property the county owns between the Sound View buildings. The hotel’s owners have also agreed to pay the county $300,000 as part of the swap — the difference of the appraised value of the parcels — which could pave the way for a modest expansion on its property.
In a statement, Erik Warner of Eagle Point Hotel Partners, which purchased the waterfront restaurant and hotel in January 2016, praised the agreement.
“[We] have been working tirelessly over the past three years to make the situation with the road safer for everyone,” Mr. Warner wrote. “We are looking forward to the changes that will be made, as it will be a win-win for the community and those visiting the North Fork.”
Bill Hillman, chief engineer for the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, said it will be Eagle Point’s responsibility to maintain the plantings in the medians, which will allow pedestrians to safely cross from the parking area to the hotel complex in stages.
“[Medians are] a typical, very tried and true traffic-calming measure,” Mr. Hillman told the committee. “We believe that this, again, realigning of the roadway, medians and plantings will have a dramatic effect on speeds in front of this facility and the medians will also provide refuge for two-stage crossing for pedestrians.”
Mr. Hillman also expects the move to make it easier for patrons who park on the north side of the Sound View property to back out safely before re-entering Route 48. The improvements are also expected to mitigate flooding concerns in the area, Mr. Krupski added.
“All that preserved swampland from the south side, that’s flooded because in heavy rains that actually backs into the road and has closed that road,” the legislator said.
A 2004 county study suggested adding a center median with plantings and curbs to the dangerous stretch of road. The issue was raised several times since, following the deaths of George Haase Sr., 76, of East Marion in 2007, Thomas Keating, 43, in 2009 and Howard Meinke, 86, of Laurel in 2014. All three men were attempting to cross the street when they were struck and killed.
The road reconstruction is not possible, Mr. Hillman said, without acquiring the land from the Sound View.
“Without the property, we really can’t [make the roadway safer],” he said, adding that a contractor is ready to begin the work immediately.