A traffic circle is being considered for the intersection of Stephen Hand’s Path, Long Lane, and Two Holes of Water Road in East Hampton, which the town board, the superintendent of highways, and the planning director agreed on Tuesday is particularly dangerous in the summer season.
They did not agree on the appropriateness of a roundabout, however. Councilman Jeff Bragman, citing what he called a “breathtaking view that defines the rural character of East Hampton,” urged his colleagues to move slowly and consider a four-way stop at the intersection instead.
Councilwoman Sylvia Overby objected to what she called the urban or suburban look of roundabouts, which she said would not be in harmony with the rural setting.
Stephen Hand’s Path is “a major corridor, now, for traffic in and out of town,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said. “That traffic has become so heavy and that intersection so dangerous that there’s been consideration of a four-way stop,” but the likely result, he said, would be vehicles backed up to the traffic light at Route 114, at one end, and Cedar Street at the other. A roundabout would allow the continual movement of traffic, “albeit a little bit slower.”
The sight lines for motorists edging into the intersection from Two Holes of Water Road are limited, he said, and drivers on Stephen Hand’s Path often exceed the 30-miles-per-hour speed limit.
Stephen Lynch, the highway superintendent, said that a fatal traffic accident occurred at the intersection some years ago. There is ample space for a roundabout, he said, and trucks would still be able to traverse the roads in question. “It seems the best thing to calm the traffic would be a traffic circle,” he said.
Marguerite Wolffsohn, the planning director, agreed, and told the board that, with respect to aesthetic considerations, “there’s so much variety in how you can design it.”
“That’s my major concern,” Ms. Overby said. “You’re in a farming area, this is all of a sudden going to be introduced; it looks very suburban. We want to keep as much of our rural character as possible.”
Ms. Wolffsohn advised the board to seek visual renderings of roundabout designs from L.K. McLean Associates, an engineering firm that has already provided a proposal for the project.
Mr. Bragman, who said he drives through the intersection daily, made his position clear. “I’m not in favor of it,” he said. “This is one of my favorite views. It’s also a scenic area of local significance. The town has spent many dollars acquiring lands on Long Lane that are a part of our endowment in East Hampton. We have to be very careful.”
Ms. Overby is correct, he said, “that roundabouts are suburban and urban in feeling. . . . Before we start saying ‘Let’s get the engineering’ . . . let’s slow down and think this through, and engage the Planning Department and figure it out.”
A four-way stop at the intersection would be a better fit with the setting, he said. “I don’t love traffic lights, but I would prefer a traffic light there to a roundabout.”
Mr. Van Scoyoc emphatically disagreed. “No, thank you,” he said. “There’s nothing less rural than a stoplight.” For that matter, “There’s nothing rural about the traffic at this location in July.”
Suffolk County is at present conducting a traffic study in the town, Mr. Lynch said.
“Let’s see the data,” Mr. Bragman said, “before we conclude what the problems are.” He urged the creation of a “concept plan” rather than “a fully engineered plan” and a review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
Ultimately, the board agreed to ask L.K. McLean Associates for a revised proposal that includes visual renderings and elevations of multiple designs.