Don’t Privatize Roads

Tackling growth townwide appears to be the only fair way of trying to keep our roadways from becoming yet worse

   Like long-suffering residents of many parts of the South Fork, people who live in a section of East Hampton centered on Miller Lanes East and West have experienced mounting frustration with drivers using the streets in their neighborhood to skirt traffic. In this case, cars and trucks wend their way through the narrow lanes as an alternative to the North Main and Cedar Street intersection. Residents have turned to the East Hampton Town Board for a solution, citing safety concerns.
    The town board is considering a ban on large trucks there in an attempt to eliminate “through” traffic. While a limit on the largest vehicles might be defensible, given the annoyances the neighborhood has been forced to endure, blocking free and unfettered public use of these roads would not be, and it could set off an unwelcome domino effect as those in other neighborhoods seek to control who can and cannot pass. Moreover, the residents’ description of narrow roads with poor sightlines, which put bicyclists and pedestrians at risk, are far from unique. It could fairly describe a substantial number, if not a majority, of the roads under the town’s purview.
    Former East Hampton Town Highway Superintendent Chris Russo hit the problem of precedent head-on when he spoke in opposition to the plan at a Sept. 21 town board hearing. He said, convincingly, that the ban on through traffic would be “de facto” privatization of taxpayer-funded roads. One wonders where the effort to ban through traffic would pop up next: Bluff Road, Amagansett? Old Montauk Highway in Montauk? Further Lane? How would such a fuzzy concept be defined? And how would enforcing the prohibition work anyway? Town police have more than enough to keep them busy in the summer season; would this mean that vigilante property owners could take it upon themselves to determine who belongs on “their” streets? It is an impractical proposition at best.
    Tackling growth townwide appears to be the only fair way of trying to keep our roadways from becoming yet worse. Each new commercial development adds to traffic, as do unchecked multiple residences and summer share houses. The residents of the Miller Lanes area are experiencing an acute case of an illness shared by many here — one most public officials have ignored.
    Many of us experience traffic frustrations equal to, or even greater than, those who live in the Miller Lane neighborhood, but public roads must remain public.