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Nov 3, 2009 5:48 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Dune Road flood fix is expected to cost $7 million

Nov 3, 2009 5:48 PM

In a photo taken in October of last year, Robert Leo, who owns a home on Dune Road in East Quogue, is shown standing in the middle of the road and in water that reaches halfway up his calves.

The sight of Dune Road being submerged under more than a foot of saltwater is not uncommon in the summer months, especially along the stretch of highway between the Quogue Village border and Hampton Bays. Some residents say that high tides that are unusually high and major storms sometimes make it impossible to access their oceanfront homes, restaurants and beaches.

“We’re very upset,” said Mr. Leo, who is the chairman of the Tiana Erosion Control District, a taxing district that generates funds for beach restoration projects. The district spans from the Quogue border to the Shinnecock Inlet.

Southampton Town officials are now working to improve conditions on the 4.5-mile stretch of road, though a fix is not expected in the near future. They say that the only way to solve the problem is to raise Dune Road at least a foot, a project that is expected to cost $7 million.

At the beginning of the summer, Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi said the board requested that U.S. Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton look into securing federal funding for the project. Mr. Bishop, a Democrat, said that his office is working to secure those funds and have them included in the reauthorization of the federal Transportation Equity Act, which he hopes will be approved either at the end of this year or sometime in early 2010. He could not say when those funds would be made available.

The congressman added that the town would still have to pay 20 percent of the cost of the work. “The federal money can’t be spent without a local cost share,” Mr. Bishop said.

Mr. Nuzzi said the town would finance its share of the project, estimated to be about $1.4 million, by tapping funds from its Highway Department budget and securing additional funding from Suffolk County.

Mr. Nuzzi and Rep. Bishop met with members of the Committee for the Improvement of Dune Road in June to talk to residents about what could be done to fix the flooding problem. The 25-member committee was formed last year with the intention of solving the problem.

“Our goal is to raise the consciousness about it,” said Joshua Ruch, the committee’s chairman who also owns a home on Dune Road in East Quogue.

Rep. Bishop said that while there might be other areas in the town that are also susceptible to flooding, the Southampton Town Board has said that Dune Road requires a more immediate overhaul.

“The town is presenting this to me as their number-one priority,” he said.

Mr. Nuzzi, who is the Town Board’s liaison to the highway department, noted that maintaining access to the only road that leads to the town’s beaches in western Southampton Town is vital.

“It’s the water and the environment surrounding it that is the economic engine for our town,” Mr. Nuzzi said.

Outgoing Southampton Town Highway Superintendent William Masterson, who will leave his office at the end of the year, said that once the funding is secured, the town will start accepting bids from contractors. He said the road will most likely need to be raised between 12 and 18 inches, and such work would take about two weeks to complete.

Mr. Leo said the flooding problem was not as bad back in 1998 when he purchased his oceanfront home. He added that the situation appears to have gotten worse with each passing year.

Mr. Masterson said that while the road has worn down in certain areas, flooding would still be an occasional problem even after the proposed work is completed. He added that the road will always be prone to flooding because it is nestled between Shinnecock Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

“It is the nature of the beast,” he said. “You’re by the ocean and you have a bay.”

In the meantime, local residents are finding other ways to either deal with or avoid the problem.

Mr. Ruch noted that he drives an SUV to navigate the large puddles and flood zones, which can cause irreparable damage to smaller vehicles.

“The taxis don’t want to come,” he said. “It’s getting worse.”

Mr. Leo said that saltwater last year ruined a $40,000 Mercedes-Benz owned by one of his neighbors, and he even heard that some people stay all night at local restaurants and bars to avoid driving through the flood zones.

Though it has proven to be a major inconvenience to residents, the flooding could pose even bigger problems, according to Mr. Leo. He said that he is particularly worried about ambulances and fire department trucks that must access Dune Road during periods of high tides.

“God forbid there is an emergency,” he said, “or, worse, an evacuation.”

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Um...did anyone even stop to think that it is just not natural to build on a stretch of land that is 4 feet wide?? People think they can control nature- it's just ridiculous. Not only that, but they pay millions to do it and then complain!
By eastendlocal (28), southampton on Nov 3, 09 8:17 AM
2 members liked this comment
So the road has been there for how many years? Now you are complaining? How about looking forward & not backward.
By FMW (1), quogue on Nov 4, 09 8:04 AM
living by the water requires planning and flexibility - check the weather and flood conditions before you go out, have supplies stocked in case you must stay in for a few days

how about a garage on stilts for so the salt water does not damage the cars? (although the air still will)
not that you could ever get the permits for it . . .
By Quioguebirder (10), on Nov 3, 09 10:17 AM
Call me when it gets to your knees
By Hambone (514), New York on Nov 12, 09 11:27 PM
I'll save you $6, 999, 950 and I'll get him out of a sensible pump into a Huggy Bear type high heel. That'll keep his cuffs dry
By Hambone (514), New York on Nov 12, 09 11:28 PM