Smithtown - On Thursday, Congressman Tim Bishop and Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio observed the final phase of a long-awaited project to reconstruct Maple Avenue. Congressman Bishop helped secure approximately $2.5 million in federal funds for the project, which was one of the first he discussed with Supervisor Vecchio upon taking office.
The Maple Avenue reconstruction began in June, with paving currently taking place, and is scheduled to be complete in approximately 4-6 weeks. The project has several components. In addition to repaving over 1 mile of surface, the project also includes improving drainage, replacing corroded pipes, new sidewalks and curbs and measures to protect Miller’s Pond from road runoff, according to Mitchell Crowley, Director, Smithtown Traffic Safety Department.
“This project has been a long time in coming and without Congressman Bishop’s help, it would still be stuck in the bureaucracy,” Supervisor Vecchio said. “I’m grateful as is the Town Board for the Congressman’s work to obtain funds to reconstruct Maple Avenue.”
At the request of the Town, Congressman Bishop stepped in at various points with the Federal Highway Administration and the New York State Department of Transportation when some of the funds were held up by red tape. Congressman Bishop and Supervisor Vecchio first discussed the need to reconstruct Maple Avenue shortly after Bishop took office. Congressman Bishop was able to secure funding for the project in the SAFETEA-LU transportation bill.
PHOTO CAPTION: Mitchell Crowley, Director, Smithtown Traffic Safety Department discusses road resurfacing with Supervisor Pat Vecchio (center) and Congressman Tim Bishop on Maple Avenue in Smithtown.
(This is a reprint)
By Erica Jackson
Anyone who has attempted to drive down Maple Avenue in Smithtown recently, realized very quickly to avoid the road in the future: The Town of Smithtown is in the process of not only resurfacing the street, but adding new crosswalks and sidewalks. When complete, the thoroughfare will be revitalized with one glitch — the new sidewalks will feature oak trees and telephone poles smack in the middle of them.
“What mindless, middling, mid-management level bureaucratic planner decided to preserve the old, outdated, rotting wood telephone poles and maintain them smack-dab in the middle of the brand spanking new, masterfully graded and expertly installed sidewalks?” asked Kings Park resident and Democratic candidate for state assembly Richard Macellaro in a letter to SmithtownMatters.com.
“These newly installed sidewalks are impassable and where necessary, must be ripped-up, redone and replaced. What a waste of scarce government resources while causing further and unexpected delays to the project’s overdue completion.”
To respond, Mitchell Crowley, director of traffic safety for the Town of Smithtown said, “It was something that we couldn’t avoid. It just wasn’t feasible to wait for the utility companies to relocate the poles.” And “yes,” he said, “it doesn’t look the best,” but he said, “there will be sufficient access around the poles.”
That includes he said, the poles that have tether’s attached. Those tie-downs, he said will be removed before the project is complete. However, the poles will have to stay put for a while. As will the numerous, large oak trees that line Maple Avenue.“The existing road has some unfortunate features that we can’t straighten out. The oak trees are not in our budget to rip out and plant new ones. But, it will be easy to walk around them.”
Crowley noted that the sidewalks will be in line with American Disabilities Act guidelines which, according to Glen Donnelly, education coordinator for Suffolk County Handicapped Services, require a 36 inch clearance for wheel-chairs and scooters. If there isn’t sufficient access, Donnelly said the sidewalks will have to be adjusted.
This all isn’t to say, said Councilman Ed Wehrheim, that the poles can’t be moved in the near future. He said, “The way the project was designed there were a couple issues with the . Rather than hold up the work, we decided to go around the poles. It is not a huge problem or expense to repair the sidewalk once the poles are moved.”
According to Crowley, the town contacted Verizon and the Long Island Power Authority, asking them to relocate their poles, but he said due to the companies’ time constraints, the poles would not be able to be moved in time for the commencement of Maple project.
LIPA, however, says it has determined after an inspection this week, that none of the poles belong to them. Verizon representatives did not return phone calls as of press time.
The $2 million Maple Avenue Project was made possible via a $1.2 Million grant from the Federal Highway Administration(FHWA) several years ago. Those funds were threatened to be taken away in 2008, unless the town got the project underway. At the time, and Legislator John Kennedy worked with the FHWA to dissuade the agency from re-appropriating the monies.
Kennedy confirmed that there are strict time constraints when it comes to using the federal funding, but he said he was disappointed to learn that the poles were not able to be moved in time. He said, “I don’t understand why they [the town] did what they did. I am mystified.”
Kennedy said he plans to contact the town and find what happened. “As I have with many other types of ventures, I will be happy to assist and work with the town to make this project beneficial and safe.”
Congressman Bishop did not return calls as of press time.
Once the funding was safe, Crowley said plans were drawn up and the town hired J. Anthony Enterprises of Bohemia via request for proposal process to expedite the project. Rendered in the project plans are drainage upgrades; a drainage structure at Miller’s Pond to treat water before it enters the waterway; new concrete sidewalks; the repaving and re-grading of Maple Avenue; decorative crosswalks at Millers Pond; driveway aprons for all driveways on Maple Avenue, and curb repair.
The town has also, said Crowley, applied for additional grant monies to help ease the remaining 20 percent of the bill that the town must foot. He said the town is expected to receive at least 15 percent of the town’s share though a state Marchaselli grant. The town is also working with the Suffolk County to “dress-up” Millers Pond, which it owns, with a concrete apron and some gravel so it looks “aesthetically better.”
Looking on the bright side,” Maple Avenue resident Helen Ammann said. “I appreciate that this is going to be nice and new when it is finished.”