Montauk’s ‘Road To Hell’ Paved With Potholes

Independent/T.E. McMorrow

“The road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” according to an ancient English proverb. That may be so, but it sure beats the road to Montauk Point from downtown Montauk, which is keeping local auto mechanics quite busy these days.

The final 5.4-mile stretch of Montauk Highway, truly “The End,” is riddled with craters a foot wide or more, and a couple of inches deep. The shoulder of the roadway has crumbled into rubble in many stretches. On many sections of the road, it is impossible to navigate without hitting a pothole.

New York State Department of Transportation workers have patched up some of the potholes, but the patches themselves can do damage as well, often rising a couple of inches above the roadway.

A massive project to repave the entire Montauk Highway/Route 27 from Southampton to Montauk began in spring of 2014. The work is contracted out by the DOT, because Montauk Highway is a state road. The 2014 project was done in increments, with the old roadway surface being stripped away, and the base underneath repaired, then covered with a new thick sheet of asphalt.

When work on the 2014 repaving project ended at the eastern edge of downtown Montauk, there were just the final 5.4 miles left unrepaired. Residents of Montauk thought workers would soon continue. That was years ago.

Now, Peter Rucano, mechanic at Marshall & Sons, sees 20 to 30 car owners a week whose vehicles have been damaged by the subpar roadway. Many have to be towed in, the damage is so severe. Not only are sidewalls blowing out, meaning the tire has to be replaced, but the wheels themselves are frequently cracked and the tire sensors damaged. He calls that final 5.4 miles of Montauk Highway “the road from hell.”

Rucano normally services about two cars a weekday that have been damaged on the stretch of road. Frequently, they have to be towed in. On weekends, that can go up to six or seven or more a day. The worst section of the roadway, he said, is probably right by Camp Hero, near the lighthouse.

These repairs can be expensive, especially when a pothole bags two wheels. “They hit it twice, front and back wheels,” Rucano said. Replacing the wheel and tire sensor on a late-model imported car can cost a couple of thousand dollars.

What is worse, with the influx of day-trippers to the Montauk Lighthouse in the new COVID-19 era, families are left to scramble to find a way home after losing their car to the “road from hell.”

According to Assemblyman Fred Thiele, help is on the way, just not right away. He agreed that the stretch of highway is probably the worst state road on the East End, and that includes Route 114 between East Hampton and Sag Harbor.

Thiele said he has been trying for years to get the repaving project budgeted. Finally, his fellow lawmakers have agreed, and the repaving project is in the new state budget. Bids are going out now for preliminary work on the road, with the actual projected slated to begin March 2021.

“That is a long time from now,” Rucano said, as he replaced yet another cracked wheel.

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