Being that it’s Fourth of July week and lots of people are thinking about the beach and relaxation (and of course, eminent domain!), we thought that it would be a good idea to dedicate a post to a summer weekend. This idea makes us think of cute beach towns, including Shelter Island.
For those of you who don’t know, Shelter Island is a town and island at the eastern end of Long Island, New York. It is part of Suffolk County, although technically since it is an island, it is separated from the rest of the county by water.
Even on small islands, such as Shelter Island, there can be chatter of eminent domain. In this case, it is talk of bike lanes. Specific to the issue on Shelter Island is Route 114, a stretch of state road that goes from North to South. It’s been the site of some close-call accidents and a source of anxiety for residents.
Designated by the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) as a “State Bike Route” (from its start in Greenport and end in East Hampton), it gets an upgrade in definition when it reaches North Haven to Sag Harbor when there are “bike lanes” dedicated solely for bicycles.
Three years ago, the state worked on several improvements along the Shelter Island leg of the road. This was meant specifically for bicycle traffic, and has included cleaning of pavement surfaces, re-striping, replacement of signage, weeding and removal of plants encroaching on the shoulder. Sounds good, right?
Yes, except that a level of maintenance is required. According to the DOT, drainage grates would undergo inspections to find out which ones need to be reset or replaced with bicycle-friendly grates. As you can probably guess, that was never done.
Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) didn’t have too many answers when asked questions about the issue by local reporters. He did provide details for three solutions that would cost between $13 million and $200,000. The more expensive options include a plan for full bike lanes the length of Route 114, including from Duval Avenue to the traffic circle in the Center, in front of the school, and West Neck Road to Manwaring Road. In addition, Thiele noted that option would involve eminent domain where property owners along Route 114 would most likely resist giving up their land to the state for the project.
The option Thiele is in favor of plans for bike lanes on 30 percent of the state road and cost $2 million. The remaining 70 percent would be shared lanes — or “sharrows” — between vehicles and bicycles and would have symbols painted on the road indicating they must be shared.
What’s the status? Nothing good for bikers this season. Thiele is in talks with local Supervisor Gary Gerth and Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams. He will also have a brief with the rest of the Town Board “soon” on the state’s proposals. Then he will take it back to the state when the Assembly reconvenes — in January.