For nearly six years, village resident Vanessa Taranto has sounded the drum to the New York State Department of Transportation for a sidewalk running along the north side of West Broadway from Setauket into Port Jefferson Village.
In letter after letter, she asked for a chance to take her children down the road without the anxiety of walking in the opposite direction of cars. In 2013, she received a letter from state DOT saying there were no accidents involving pedestrians on the road, and it would have been cost prohibitive. This, especially, had her laughing to herself.
“People are driving up the hill during the day sometimes with the sun in their eyes, and it’s dangerous,” Taranto said. “I wrote back to everyone, ‘Does the Village of Port Jefferson have to wait for someone to die before they build a sidewalk five blocks long?’”
To people like the Port Jefferson mayor and the DOT, she became known as the “sidewalk lady.”
Now her wish could soon become a reality, and those looking to climb the hill of West Broadway into Setauket may soon find their path aided with a new sidewalk.
DOT confirmed the plans to construct a new sidewalk by late next year along the north side of West Broadway, a quarter-mile stretch compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act connecting existing sidewalk sections between Hoyt Lane and Bayview Terrace.
While this is good news for those along the state-owned stretch of road, of course, there is a catch — and it’s a big one.
While bids have already gone out for a sidewalk along the north side of West Broadway, otherwise known as Route 25A, a true repaving of the steep road from the village into Setauket is missing funds on the part of the state. Mayor Margot Garant told the public at the last board meeting Aug. 5 the state DOT does not have any more funds for road repaving in all of New York until 2025.
Though this does not preclude the village going in to patch holes, complete repaving — usually an expensive endeavor — might not be in the pipe for another six years.
“It means I could not put in a request to have West Broadway repaved,” Garant said, “[DOT] said the best they could do was to have the maintenance crew go out and patch on the south side of West Broadway going down the hill.”
The DOT did not confirm or deny the lack of funds for projects until 2025, and instead said they were looking for other options for dealing with Route 25A.
“Route 25A (Main Street) was resurfaced three years ago between the ferry terminal and NYS Route 112 and we are exploring options for additional paving on Route 25A in the near future,” DOT spokesman Stephen Canzoneri said in an email. “We are in the process of scheduling a follow-up meeting with the mayor’s team to discuss these projects.”
Garant said she learned this in a meeting with DOT officials several weeks ago along with other village officials including Steve Gallagher, superintendent of the village Department of Public Works.
West Broadway is a steep hill climbing up toward Setauket, and several parts of that street are pockmarked with wide and deep potholes. Route 25A, which is otherwise known as Main Street before turning into West Broadway, travels all the way from Calverton into Queens at Long Island City. Taranto called the state of the road “a nightmare.”
Garant said while the village could ask the state for permission to go in and patch the worst parts of the road, the village Department of Public Works would not be keen on spending time and money on a road that should be handled by the state.
“If we’re going to do this, we should do it right and make it one continuous walkable community.”
— Margot Garant
Though repaving on West Broadway has been stymied, the north facing sidewalk is still in the pipe. One plan for the new sidewalk goes all the way down the north side of West Broadway until Beach Street, but the other would be pushed back to start after Bayview Terrace. Garant was adamant it should start by the bottom of the hill.
“If we’re going to do this, we should do it right and make it one continuous walkable community,” the mayor said.
The mayor said the village will be having a follow-up meeting Aug. 27 with the DOT.
The final decision comes down to DOT officials. Meg Danielson, a transportation analyst for the state DOT who will be meeting with village officials later this month, did not respond to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, Port Jeff is gathering funds to repave several village-owned roads, including: Pine Tree Court, Nadia Court, Contessa Court, Roslyn Court, Peninsula Drive and Landing Lane at a total cost $349,404. Paving is being done by Rosemar Contracting Inc. of East Moriches. Previous quotes for repaving had come in at just under $500,000, according to village officials.
“Their quote was so wonderful that we added another street,” Garant said at the Aug. 5 board meeting. “That’s not to say there’s other streets in the village that need to be done.”
And despite the state of West Broadway, Taranto is looking forward to a chance to bring her children down into Port. For one of her daughters, Roxanne, who is on the autism spectrum, it’s an important opportunity to allow her some degree of independence as she grows toward high school.
It wasn’t just for her, Taranto said, nor her other daughter Maggie, but for the other 12 children — 11 girls and one boy — living on her block along Longacre Court, who she said have developed into a close-knit community.
“If I can do this for all of those kids to keep them safe, that’s really my goal,” Taranto said.