First it was a sprinkling of neon-orange road cones and signs announcing "Road Work 1000 Ft." Then the crews began to arrive, and this week the roar of the graders and the smell of fresh tar permeated the normally unencumbered stretch of Route 27 west of East Hampton Village.
The State Department of Transportation's $5 million repaving of the South Fork's only major highway, from just east of Bridgehampton to Skimhampton Road near Amagansett, has swung into high gear.
With the cooperation of Mother Nature, the work is moving right along, Chris Russo, East Hampton Town Highway Supervisor, said this week, relieved that soon he can stop characterizing Montauk Highway as "a disgrace."
Robert Aluskewicz, an engineer supervising the job for the Transportation Department, said he expected most, if not all of the work west of the village to be completed by May 22. Mr. Aluskewicz, a Southampton resident, recalled working on the road the last time the state improved it - about 30 years ago.
Newborn Construction of Center Moriches is doing the job, and will suspend work just before Memorial Day, resume after Labor Day, and complete the repaving by the end of November, a Transportation Department spokeswoman said this week.
Storm Drains, Too
Three sections west of the village are not slated for work - the center of Wainscott, which was repaved and restriped about two years ago, near Stephen Hand's Path, where in recent months a new turn lane was created and the roadway freshly repaved, and a 2,000-foot stretch west of Daniel's Hole Road, which Mr. Aluskewicz called an "orphan," saying he did not know why plans did not include it, too.
At the same time, Cosmos Construction of Queens is cleaning and replacing hundreds of storm drains lining the highway east to Montauk Point, and north along Route 114 to the South Ferry on North Haven. That work, Mr. Russo said, will ease road flooding considerably.
The work, originally slated to begin three years from now, was moved up after East Hampton Town and Village officials and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. complained to state transportation officials in Albany last year.
Crumbling shoulders, potholes, and cracked pavement have aggravated drivers increasingly in recent years. Local highway crews have patched the problem areas here and there, only to watch them recur in the natural contraction and expansion that occurs as the seasons change.
The resurfacing, after poor sections of roadway are "milled" away, entails adding two layers of asphalt, known as "lifts" in engineer-speak, and raising the road about three and a half inches, except on Woods Lane near East Hampton Town Pond, where the road will rise only about an inch and a half.
After each section's paving is completed, Mr. Aluskewicz said, the crews will stripe and finish off the intersections, driveways, and gutters.
The stretch of Route 27 east of Skimhampton Road, at least to Cranberry Hole Road in Amagansett, is scheduled for resurfacing in 2001, costing several million dollars more.