A dilapidated bridge and longtime public safety hazard on Sheep Pasture Road in Port Jeff will come down.
“I’m concerned that the MTA has forgotten about this section of Long Island.”
Local and state officials held a press conference Tuesday, July 25, at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville, celebrating a $15.8 million grant through the state Department of Transportation’s BridgeNY Program to replace the bridge.
The new bridge will be owned and maintained by the town.
The Sheep Pasture Road railroad bridge has facilitated vehicle traffic since 1906. The Town of Brookhaven and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had split the tasks for maintaining the structure — the town supervising the vehicle roadbed and the MTA responsible for the physical structure and its replacement.
“The bridge that’s there did belong to the MTA,” said Brookhaven Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro (R). NYSDOT “still gave the Town of Brookhaven $15.8 million to build our own bridge. That tells you how serious the concern with the existing structure was and the unwillingness on the part of the MTA to address the concern.”
Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) underscored the troubles surrounding the bridge’s structural integrity. “Our fear was that this bridge would collapse,” he said.
The supervisor noted that none of the town’s three train lines are fully electrified, suggesting a lack of public attention or investment.
“I’m concerned that the MTA has forgotten about this section of Long Island,” he added.
Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Lauren Sheprow attended the press event, expressing her support for the project under town supervision.
“On the north side of Sheep Pasture Road, those folks have been anxious for this development for a very long time, as have most of the residents utilizing that bridge,” she said. “The Village of Port Jefferson could not be more excited by the development that there will be a new bridge.”
“I’ll quote a congressman from New Jersey, who said the best way to understand the MTA is looking at the MTA backward. MTA spelled backward stands for ATM.”
— Dan Panico
Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), whose 1st Council District includes Port Jefferson and Port Jefferson Station, thanked Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) office for “answering the call” of the state delegation.
Kornreich nonetheless acknowledged the need for greater attention by the MTA.
“I’ll echo my colleagues who have pointed out the seeming disregard the MTA has had for our plight and the safety of our residents,” he said. “It’s really been a case of shocking neglect.”
Continuing this theme, Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville) condemned MTA’s position toward Long Island.
“I’ll quote a congressman from New Jersey, who said the best way to understand the MTA is looking at the MTA backward,” Panico said. “MTA spelled backward stands for ATM.”
New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) referred to MTA’s inaction on the public safety hazard as “egregious,” decrying the perceived lack of investment by the public railroad into the local area.
“The MTA has no problem increasing taxes on us, our payroll taxes,” the assemblyman said. “Every time they seem to need to go to the well, it’s communities like ours that seem to foot the bill, and we don’t get the proper services.”
Referring to the bridge replacement, he added, “This is just a win for the citizens up here.”
With funding secured, Losquadro said his office is moving toward the planning phase for the project. He maintained that coordinating with emergency services is already underway.
“We will make sure that this process moves as expeditiously as it possibly can,” he said. “We have already spoken with emergency services and first responders to make sure that we have a plan that when this bridge does come down, it will be for the minimum amount of time before the new structure is in place.”