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Long-Awaited Widening Comes to Jackson Ave.

Fri December 02, 2011 - Northeast Edition
Peter Hildebrandt

Jackson Avenue, in Syosset, N.Y., has finally been given a makeover.

This street has long been a pivotal thoroughfare in this community, which is serviced by the nearby Long Island Railroad. The LIRR provides a direct line into midtown Manhattan and Jackson Avenue provides a straight shot from the Long Island Expressway and Jericho Turnpike to the heart of the town where the LIRR train station is located. But the narrow busy street also has had its share of pedestrian deaths, auto accidents and near-death experiences.

Years ago, at the one major curve in the road a man got up from his couch just in time to be spared the wreckage of a fast-moving auto that plowed directly into the room where he’d just been napping. Other area residents have their own Jackson Avenue. stories involving this narrow, important street where drivers often accelerate.

With this much needed widening of the road, there will be three lanes: one lane north, one south and a center turn lane for the entire length. Plus, as drivers travel north, there will still be a turn lane as drivers approach Convent Road. Convent Road is a major cut through and there are many residential areas off that road.

Because the project would impact so many people, the town wanted to ensure they did sufficient outreach to inform as many people as possible about the widening project. The town of Oyster Bay had one large meeting to which the entire community of Syosset was invited. They also had smaller meetings with special interest groups; for example, all of the utilities were invited to one meeting. There was another meeting with the schools in the area along with the fire department and the men’s group that sponsors the Memorial Day Parade. Some of the concerns of all these groups overlapped.

“We knew they would be very site-specific with what their concerns were,” said Phyllis A. Barry, public information officer of the town of Oyster Bay. “We didn’t want them in that big community group when there was concern about ’my tree’ or ’my dog running out in front of a truck’. The meetings, especially the smaller ones, were very effective, as people were very pleased to get into that kind of a setting and have their concerns addressed.

“An engineer gave a presentation with visuals showing what would happen, what the flow would be and after the presentation we opened it up to questions. After the formal part of the meeting ended, we had engineers off on the side with the actual plans and people could see their actual house and ask specific questions such as ’what’s going to happen here?’ ’I live here and how will this impact me?’ We were able to give individual attention as well.”

That individual attention helped things run smoothly. For instance, at the meeting with the schools, it was learned that one of the schools has a break between their regular session and their summer school. The contractor made a note of that and agreed to try to get the curbs in during that three-week break. For churches in the affected area, there is a number to call for scheduled weddings so the route for the procession is cleared to ensure there are no obstacles. The idea was to set up the lines of communication with the businesses, churches and schools so they have contact people and a comfort level so that if something comes up there is somebody there for them.

Once the contract was awarded, all of the utilities, the cable company and everybody had to come in and move their equipment from the old poles to the new poles, which are set back. Once pictures of the new poles were taken and shown to residents, people realized the extent to which the actual widening would happen.

Work on the curbs went from south to north as work proceeded. A lot of big old trees were taken down because of the project. But there will be trees going up in front of the homes where residents request them. Homeowners can request more than one at no charge. “We now have a list of trees that are sidewalk friendly and also wire friendly,” said Barry. “They grow to no more than 26 feet in height and do not cause the issues with overhead wires or sidewalks as with the older trees.”

In the midst of work on the project, Hurricane Irene added to the challenges workers were already dealing with. The town lost 700 trees due to rain, wind and flooding from the storm. Four of the trees lost were ones that the project along Jackson Ave. had slated to be preserved. Some sections of curbing already completed also had to be redone in the wake of Irene.

The project involved installing new storm water drainage pipe, cleaning the existing stormwater drainage, rebuilding some of the catch basins and constructing new ones as needed. Curbs, aprons and handicapped ramps were added and updated. The entire stretch of road also has sidewalks, as before, there were stretches where there were no sidewalks — where the lawns of some houses came right down to the street.

Another part of the project involved putting in stamped concrete crosswalks by Railroad Avenue, Ira Road and Convent Road, just south of the LIRR tracks. Decorative lighting and a brick tabor sidewalk were added in this area to match what is being planned for the north side of the LIRR tracks. The plan is to carry this arrangement from one side of the tracks to the other so that there is continuity in this business area. Landscaping and signal lights in the crosswalks will be included.

The town of Oyster Bay will not be paving the road north of the tracks as it belongs to Nassau County. “The county is actually talking about doing a mill and fill on their portion of Jackson Avenue north of the train tracks,” said Barry.

Three million dollars for the project came from Nassau County. The remainder is from the town of Oyster Bay’s capital. The road is now owned by town of Oyster Bay for perpetuity, whereas before it was owned by Nassau County.

The contractor is Carlo Lizza and Sons Paving Inc. John Keeling is project manager on the job and Emilo Tanzillo, superintendent. As the work started, traffic congestion was viewed as the main challenge on this project, according to Keeling. “But what we found was that this hasn’t been as big of an issue as we thought. The concrete work went straightforward and all barrier setups went smoothly.

“We had 8 to 10 on our concrete crew, four engineers on the job, eight laborers and an average of 8 to 10 road workers per day. Two state-certified MPTs (Maintenance Protection of Traffic) workers were on-site too.”

Equipment on the project included a Case crawler excavator, John Deere 410J tractor loader backhoe, John Deere 595D rubber-tired excavator, Volvo rubber-tired excavator, Roadtec RX-900 cold planer milling machine, Komatsu crawler excavator, Bobcat skid steer loader and a Cat asphalt paving machine. All of the equipment was supplied by the contractor.

The town of Oyster Bay is involved from the standpoint of overseeing the work on this job. It has a project manager, Daniel Midgette, with the town’s highway division, on the job site on a daily basis. The project is being administered by the town of Oyster Bay highway department. Highway Commissioner Richard T. Betz has assigned Midgette to oversee daily operations.

The contract bid was just under $3.9 million, and the contract length is 18 months.

“Of course with any job, the contractors would love to get it done sooner; if we have an easy winter we’ll probably come in ahead of schedule,” said Barry. “But if we have a winter like that of 2010-11 they’ll need that full 18 months.”

In the end all the advanced planning, communications and discussion has paid off. This construction job slated to be completed in October 2012 has actually ended up finishing up far ahead of schedule despite a late summer visit by Hurricane Irene. It should now be completed — barring anymore late season hurricanes — far ahead of schedule in December 2011. CEG

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