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Bridge To Somewhere

The road from Oyster Bay to Bayville will be open by the Fourth of July weekend, an engineer told local civic groups May 16, but disagreements arose over plans for finishing the road.

The sea wall, which was damaged during Hurricane Sandy, resulting in the closure of West Shore Road “is almost complete,” Donna Boyle, project engineer for Nassau County, told a joint meeting of the Oyster Bay Civic Association and the East Norwich Civic Association at the Italian American Citizens Club, Oyster Bay.

The plan is for the road to open July 3, the day before Independence Day. Phase I, completion of the seawall, will be finished on budget as well, Boyle said in response to a question. Over the next phase, work on the road from Oyster Bay to Bayville will proceed.

About 60 people crowded in for the meeting, with many questions as well as impromptu statements from the floor. Judith-Ann Barnett, vice president of the Oyster Bay Civic Association, presided over the meeting in the absence of Bill Von Novak, who was out sick.

Boyle explained the complexities of the project noting the various state, federal, and local regulations that need to be complied with. The seawall’s proximity to a federal wildlife sanctuary complicates matters further.

Among the plans are for a pathway on the east side of the road (the side closer to the bay) that will be open to pedestrian traffic as well as bicycles, Boyle said, and a drainage system on the west side. A path specifically for bicycles is not planned.

Discussion became more spirited when she told of the plans for a curb and a guardrail that will go on top of the curb.

“That will block the view of the bay,” one audience member shouted out, quickly eliciting agreement from a number of people present who wondered why the guardrail needs to be so high.

The curb is wide enough to walk on, Boyle explained, and it is inevitable that children and others will do so. Therefore, a guardrail is needed to prevent anyone from falling off.

Many community members spoke up, noting how they are so proud of the view of Oyster Bay that can be seen on the way to and from Bayville, and wondered if some alternative could be found.

“If you are driving, you shouldn’t be looking at the bay,” Boyle said, drawing some disagreement from many in the audience. Others questioned whether safety has been an issue in the past that requires additional measures now.

“There are people who have died on the road,” Boyle replied. She later added that safety standards require a high enough railing if bicyclists are using the pathway.

When asked about the issue of speeding cars on the road and bridge, Boyle replied that “enforcement is a local issue.”

Some audience members asked if alternatives, such as placing something on the curb to prevent people from walking on it, might be possible.

“Can anything be changed?” one audience member inquired.

“It can be looked at,” Boyle said, but that might entail delays.

While some said that delays were acceptable if the project can be improved, others pointed out that businesses in Bayville have been hurt by the closing of the road already and that additional delays should be avoided.

Several audience members apologized to Boyle for “beating up on you,” and complained that political representatives should have been present along with her.

“You’re doing a wonderful job,” one person from the audience commented, drawing agreement from others.

“Everyone objects that there are no politicians here,” Matthew Meng, president of the East Norwich Civic Association, said afterwards.

Rosemarie Colvin, secretary of the East Norwich Civic Association, commented that although the work is being done, in many ways, “it is the same road with the same problems.”

Gary Drury, a member of the board of the Oyster Bay Civic Association, commented that “we are grateful that this is going to be done on time and on budget,” but regretted that more people did not get involved earlier in the process to have more of an impact.

Barnett, vice president of the Oyster Bay Civic Association, said that she was “really happy with the turnout and the meeting was successful in letting people know what the county is doing and the progress on the project. I’m hoping that more people will become aware and get involved in the community.”