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Sep 19, 2017 1:23 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Year-Long Trestle Replacement Work In East Hampton Will Begin Next Month

The train trestles above Accabonac Road and North Main Street have a long history of creating problems for trucks with low clearance. PRESS FILE
Sep 19, 2017 2:47 PM

The Long Island Rail Road last week unveiled plans for the $19 million replacement of two problematic East Hampton Village trestles—leaving some village residents and officials concerned about the visual impact and disturbances that would come with the project.

Engineers from the railroad told the East Hampton Village Board on Friday that prep work for raising the two trestles over North Main Street and Accabonac Road will begin next month and will continue through the spring and next fall.

When completed, the new trestles will be raised by about 3 feet—which, with luck, would eliminate chronic problems with large trucks striking the trestles and knocking them out of alignment, causing both interruptions of train service and traffic snarls on the busy roadways.

But raising the bridges will require the construction of an 11-foot-high concrete retaining wall, stretching for some 300 feet between the North Main Street and Accabonac trestles, as well as the removal of dense natural vegetation that currently screens the tracks from homes that neighbor the LIRR right-of-way.

Hector Garcia, the LIRR’s director of external affairs, told the Village Board that the new bridges will require the tracks for hundreds of feet in either direction to be sloped gradually upward—at just a 2-degree incline—and that doing so requires the base supporting them to be raised and widened.

The retaining wall will be necessary in the stretch where the LIRR right-of-way is narrowed greatly as it crosses village property near Hook Mill—and the image of the wall also raised hackles.

“That is a historic district, and that’s a huge wall,” said Village Trustee Barbara Borsack, who lives near the Accabonac Road trestle. “We want it looking nice.”

Ms. Borsack asked that the LIRR stain the concrete a dark color before forming the wall, to ease the visual impact.

Paul Jones, the LIRR’s principal engineer, said that coloring the concrete before the wall is constructed is not possible, as it would increase the cost of the project several times over. The railroad officials also said that raising the tracks in the run-up to the two trestles will require that most if not all natural vegetation along the tracks be removed, and that crews might even need to access some homeowners’ property.

Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. asked that the railroad provide the village with cost estimates for pre-staining the concrete and said that the village plans to approach state officials, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, to urge that funding for the project be increased to ease the visual impact of the work.

The mayor also complimented the LIRR representatives on their efforts to communicate with village officials throughout the planning process, but he worried what other ancillary impacts may come with the new bridges.

“It’s a double-edged sword: On the one hand, it relieves a problem,” the mayor said. “But when the new bridge is in place, we’re going to have commercial vehicles that today can’t traverse under the trestles.”

Mr. Garcia said that the LIRR is still exploring options for painting the wall and noted that the village would be able to plant vegetation on its property to screen the wall.

The plans also left several residents who live along the tracks worried about what the vegetation removal would leave in their line of sight toward the tracks.

“I’m going to have about 140 feet of that wall along that property,” said one property owner, Tom Prendergast. “The last thing we want you to do is put some kind of stain that is going to be a mess” after a few years, he said.

The work over the next several months will focus on constructing the retaining wall and preparing the track bed to be raised. Construction will halt for the summer season next year and resume in October, when crews will work 24 hours a day for about 10 days per trestle.

Mr. Garcia said that the prep work this fall and winter will not cause interruptions in traffic, but that replacing the trestles in fall 2018 will force road closures on each road over the two 10-day periods when crews work 24 hours.

As part of the bridge redesign, the existing middle footing on the North Main Street trestle, on the west side of the roadway, will be removed—a point applauded by the board members.

“On the work schedule: 24 hours for 10 days per bridge, so nearly a month of 24-hour work … Could you do it not at night?” Ms. Borsack asked. “To lose sleep for a month is somewhat concerning. Most people feel we don’t get a lot for out MTA taxes out here, if it costs a little more to avoid it being disruptive …”

The LIRR representatives acknowledged the disturbance the work may cause but said the contract has already been awarded, and that 24-hour work is an important component to the cost targets of the project.

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Can't engineer-out stupidity. Here's a better idea.. Suspend several large high-visibility balls ten feet in front of the underpass at the opening's height. A truck will hit those before the trestle and stop. Simple.. effective..and cheap.
By harbor (415), East Hampton on Sep 19, 17 4:38 PM
I think part of the reason is to reduce the need for the now oversized trucks to have to go through the more populated village streets such as Osborne Ln, Cooper Ln, and Cedar St.

By itsamazing (224), Southampton on Sep 19, 17 6:37 PM
$19 million for an eyesore. Waste of money. Fix other problems first.

Stop trucks with lights, cameras, ball chains etc before wasting money on a lousy fix. There is enough current technology to address this problem.

Regrading, building concrete retaining walls etc is just absurd for 3 feet of elevation - $6 million per foot. Assuming 10 trucks a year hit every year, at $19 million the LIRR can spend $95,000 an incident for next 20 years.

Work the problem instead ...more
By Amagansett Voter (62), Amagansett on Sep 20, 17 7:15 AM
Stop the wining, this should have been done 30-40 years ago. Took SH Village years to get the MTA to raise two bridges.
I also live near the tracks, I moved here, the tracks existed. Not my place to complain, not in my back yard. Vegetation can be planted.
I used both bridges in easthampton and have seen the results of these accidents. The bridge near the airport should be done also... The horse and buggy days have passed...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Sep 20, 17 1:40 PM
If life hands you a lemon . . .

Make Lemonade!

The new retaining wall would make a great location for a tasteful and appropriate mural -- or murals -- a triptych perhaps?

Get the MTA's permission and open a competition for the design(s). Both sides of the tracks?

Seize the moment . . . before the graffiti artists start salivating!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 20, 17 2:42 PM