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Dec 18, 2012 10:52 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Town Paves Over Storm-Deposited Sand On Dune Road In Hampton Bays

Dec 19, 2012 10:14 AM

Rather than viewing it as an obstacle, the Southampton Town Highway Department saw a unique opportunity in the 4 feet of sand dumped on a section of Dune Road in Hampton Bays in late October by Superstorm Sandy.

Highway crews recently finished compacting and paving over the sand, most of it coming from the dunes directly to the south that once protected the road from the Atlantic Ocean, elevating by several feet an estimated 900-foot section of roadway that, prior to the hurricane, flooded on a regular basis during high tide.

The town, according to Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor, also saved money in the process.

Mr. Gregor said that particular section of Dune Road near Tiana Beach was torn apart during the storm by a nearly 1,500-foot-wide washover that ripped up chunks of asphalt the size of coffee tables, depositing many in nearby marshes. The Highway Department spent about $89,000 removing approximately a foot of sand from the two-lane road and laying down new asphalt some 4.5 feet above sea level. Mr. Gregor said he hopes to recoup all of that money from the Federal Highway Administration, since the repairs qualify as emergency work.

Mr. Gregor estimates that using the relocated sand saved the town about $160,000 had it opted to elevate that section of road as part of a larger proposed project that would raise the entire five-mile stretch of Dune Road between Quogue Village and the Shinnecock Inlet by several feet. The larger project, which he estimated to cost somewhere in the range of $7 million to $9 million, has been delayed while the town waits for the necessary permits from the State Department of Environmental Conservation. Additionally, the town still needs to secure funding—most likely a mix of federal, state, county and town money—for the bigger project.

The highway superintendent also explained that he has altered the specs of the larger project to appease the DEC. For example, the town said it will create nearly 3 acres of wetlands by Warner’s Park, just east of Ponquogue Bridge, to offset any negative impact to other wetlands when the road elevation work gets under way. Workers would grade that land so that it floods with salt water, making it a habitat for wetland grasses. Mr. Gregor said he has also proposed reducing the width of Dune Road by about 6 feet in some places, keeping it at 28 feet across for the entire five-mile stretch.

“We are giving, so we hope that they see that and work with us,” Mr. Gregor said.

Securing funding for the work is a larger obstacle that the town needs to tackle before it can break ground, though Mr. Gregor said he has made some progress in recent weeks. In September, he applied for a state grant to finance some of the work. In addition to partnering with Suffolk County, Mr. Gregor said his department will apply for federal funding that covers road improvement projects that mitigate future damage. “Anywhere there is a potential to get money 
from, we’ve touched and we’re going to see what happens,” he said.

Dune Road is generally in poor but passable condition, Mr. Gregor explained, and the town is now forced to spend between $25,000 to $30,000 a year “trying to glue it back together.” He said just overlaying it with fresh asphalt would cost nearly $600,000, and it would still be prone to normal flooding.

“The road isn’t engineered—it’s built on bog,” he said, explaining that the rigid asphalt breaks and cracks when the bog beneath it flexes with the tides. “I’m trying my best to get good financial partners so we can make this happen.”

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