Repaving project on Roanoke Avenue to improve road’s drainage

Bill Hillman of the Suffolk County Department of Public Works speaks at an informational meeting on the county’s plans to repave Roanoke Avenue Thursday night at Cornell Cooperative Extension. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

A project to repave Roanoke Avenue will come with “some pain,” according to Bill Hillman, the chief engineer of the Suffolk County Department of Public Works.

“Reconstructing this roadway, there’s going to be some pain,” he said at an informational meeting Thursday. “There’s just no way around it. It’s a tight road.”

Mr. Hillman likened the job to someone redoing their kitchen while they still live in the house.

“At some point, you’re not going to have a kitchen sink,” he said.

The DPW is planning to repave the road and improve the drainage, curbs and sidewalks on a 1.3-mile stretch of Roanoke Avenue (also known as County Road 73) from Route 25 in downtown Riverhead to the Route 58 traffic circle.

The job is expected to begin by spring of 2015 and the major parts of it should be done by January 2016, although other smaller items may take until spring of 2016, according to Bill Colavito, the DPW’s director of highway design.

Only a handful of residents attended the informational meeting, which was held at Cornell Cooperative Extension on Griffing Avenue; most of those in attendance were either town, county or state officials or employees.

No major roadway configuration changes are planned, but the drainage work will significantly reduce the amount of rainwater going into water bodies like Merritts Pond, Mr. Colavito said.

The job has not been bid out yet, but the cost is anticipated to be more than $4 million, Mr. Hillman said.

The proposal calls for shrinking the travel portion of the road from 12 feet to 11. The shoulder will be widened from 3 feet to 4 and the sidewalk from 4 feet to 5 feet wide, bringing it into compliance with new Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, according to Mr. Hillman.

Exact detours or road closings are unknown at this early stage, but Mr. Hillman said DPW plans to deliver to residents and business owners contact information of a county representative who can answer their questions.

“This isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve done this quite a bit and we have seasoned people doing it,” Mr. Hillman said. “If there’s an issue during construction, please make us aware of it.”

He said that if people lost the number of the county representative, they should call the DPW’s highway division.

The DPW will be in constant communication with emergency services, such as police, fire and ambulance, during the job, so they will know in advance when roads are being worked on, Mr. Hillman said.

There may be times when workers need to block a driveway, but they will contact residents in advance to ask if they can park their car across the street, Mr. Hillman said. That will not be the case with commercial properties.

“A business will always have access,” he said.

There are no plans to change the speed limit or weight limit on the road.

Riverhead Highway Superintendent George Woodson suggested that no passing be allowed on the road, which is apparently permitted now.

“People drive kind of crazy,” he said.

DPW also will remove about eight trees along the road and will replace them with “sidewalk-friendly” or “wire-friendly” trees, Mr. Hillman said.

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