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More Delays for Jackson Ave. Project

Building the Road to Town Specifications Could Save Money, But the Delays Themselves Come With Potential Costs

It looks like Syosset residents are going to have to wait a little longer for the fresh-paved, safer incarnation of Jackson Avenue that they’ve been promised for so long.

While the plan, proposed by Supervisor John Venditto, for the Town of Oyster Bay to take over the construction planned for the section of Jackson Avenue located between Jericho Turnpike and the LIRR tracks, was recently approved by the Nassau County Planning Commission, the county is still waiting for the town to send over an IMA, or Inter Municipal Agreement for the turnover of the road. Furthermore, once the IMA is received, it will still require approval from the County Legislature. Once passed by the County Legislature, the Town Board must also approve.

Meanwhile, the 60 days in the future that Legislator Judy Jacobs had announced as the projected start date for the construction at a Syosset Chamber of Commerce meeting back in April, have elapsed. According to Jacobs, the 60-day estimate was communicated to her by Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker.

For his part, while Walker was unable to provide a new time frame, he emphasized the fact that the town was by no means taking the matter lightly. “We’re all under the gun; we understand the concerns of the neighbors and the community that travel along Jackson Avenue, so we’re doing everything in our power to get things done as quickly as possible- not letting things sit on people’s desks or things of that nature.”

However, EW Howell, which had won the bidding on the project, recently received a letter from the County Public Works Division that their services are no longer needed, meaning that the town will send out the project for bidding after a new plan for the construction has been drawn up. Apparently, now that the town is in charge, the road must be built to different specifications, necessitating a new plan and a new bidding process.

“I think the Town Supervisor took the position that, if it’s going to be a town road, we’re going to make sure it’s engineered the way we want to engineer it,” said Councilman Chris Coschignano. “So they reviewed the engineering, and they came up with a plan that I have to believe is 95 percent the same as the prior plan.” Coschignano went on to say that the project is at a stage where he expects to see a finished plan very soon- perhaps within the week- but he has yet to see it. Coschignano also noted that he was not aware of any dissatisfaction with EW Howell on the part of the town whatsoever.

Jack Libert, commissioner of the Department of Public Works for the Town of Oyster Bay, was able to elaborate on the actual differences between the town and county specifications: the county’s specifications are predicated upon a traffic level of approximately 50,000 cars per day, which roads like Old Country Road warrant, while the town specifications are predicated upon an amount of 20,000 to 25,000 cars per day, which is closer to the amount of regular traffic on Jackson Avenue, he said. As a result of the lighter proposed traffic, the town’s specifications call for less asphalt. “So, conceivably there could be some savings of money if it’s not going to compromise the durability and integrity of the road,” Libert said. He also said that the drainage was being evaluated to see if it could be made more economical.

While laying less asphalt might save the town money in materials, Mark Herbst, head of the New York State Long Island Construction Union, is concerned that pushing the project back might lead to increased costs in other areas: if the project has to be re-bid, there will be a delay between the bidding process and the start of work which could stretch into the fall, he explained. If it stretches on long enough, the construction could encounter winter weather problems that will increase costs.

“You’re going to have to close the road and you’re not going to have the material available; you’re going to have to provide safety for the road conditions; the asphalt-concrete can’t cure; what you’re basically doing is pushing it off until the next construction season. And then the contractor is responsible for maintaining the safety of the roadway, and that’s where the costs increase,” Herbst said.

However, despite his obvious frustration with the delays, Herbst was not pointing fingers at Venditto:

 “From my experience with Supervisor Venditto, once he gives his word he moves forward,” said Herbst. “I would think he shares our frustrations, whatever the cause of the delay is,” he said.

Herbst also noted that with the current, unprecedented, unemployment levels in the construction industry- hovering around 35 percent- this was not a good time to stall on a construction project that the community needs.

Legislator Jacobs shared similar concerns: “My main concern is for the residents of Syosset and they should rest assured that the engineers have stated that the LIPA poles, Verizon work, etc. are all still valid and the actual configuration of the project will be staying the same. I am saddened and fully understand the Union’s concern. In these difficult economic times, all of the delays are costing construction workers the entire 2010 season. However, the bottom line and most important thing is that a project, which has taken so long to get accomplished, is about to happen, albeit later than any of us hoped. My deepest thanks to Supervisor John Venditto for answering my call for help and to County Executive Ed Mangano being willing to work together for the betterment of our community,” Jacobs said.

Town officials were consistently adamant about the importance of the project.

“I would like the project to start tomorrow, because I was born and raised in Syosset,” said Coschignano. “We’ve been waiting so long, and I’m not blaming anybody for why we’ve waited so long, but the people in the community really need to see it happen now. I want the town to be the solution, and we jumped in to be the solution,” the councilman said.

Howard Roland, president of EW Howell, could not be reached for comment at this time.