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Apr 21, 2015 4:51 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

New Season Brings Same Old Traffic Delays For Eastbound Commuters

Apr 21, 2015 4:51 PM

An uptick in eastbound traffic over the last several weeks has not gone unnoticed by local officials, who are taking precautions to help improve the flow of vehicles, especially on County Road 39, before the summer traffic kicks into high gear.

While traffic has not been anywhere near its historic worst before County Road 39 was widened from two lanes to four in 2008, the Southampton Town Transportation and Safety office has received a steady number of complaints about backups on County Road 39 recently. The biggest issue, according to Tom Neely, director of the department, is simply that there is not enough capacity on local roads to accommodate the sudden influx of people, and that solutions are limited.

The lack of a resolution is little help to the thousands of East End employees and residents who have been stuck in the daily morning jam for the last few weeks. For Mary Pontieri, the district clerk at the Southampton School District, the only solution is to leave her home in Patchogue earlier each morning, with traffic at times adding 40 minutes to her daily drive east.

Mr. Neely said the biggest trouble spot is the eastbound lanes of County Road 39 during the morning rush hour. Fueling the problem is a combination of traffic lights, increased traffic on side streets, and vendors coming to the East End to prepare for summer, including landscapers, pool repairmen and contractors, compounded with the normal traffic generated by teachers and other East End employees.

“Basically, people are all talking about the congestion and the backups, hoping for answers,” Mr. Neely said. “I have also had a couple of comments about light signals in Hampton Bays. It’s this time of year.”

Although there is little his office can do about the number of cars and trucks on the roads, over the last few weeks Mr. Neely’s department has been checking to make sure all traffic lights are set to the correct timing, with signals at both the Tuckahoe Road intersection of County Road 39, and the Montauk Highway intersection of Canoe Place Road, set to the maximum of 255 seconds of green, or roughly four minutes.

The town has also informed state and Suffolk County officials that these signals need to have the maximum time allowed to ease the congested created when they trigger.

Calls to the Suffolk County Department of Public Works were not returned this week.

Mr. Neely said there are more cars on the roads than the East End can handle, and that too many cars on side streets can affect the timing on the main roads.

“Teachers and administrators that commute east are still in school, so they are commuting early in the morning, and that combined with the trade folks early in the morning is throwing everything off,” he said.

Ms. Pontieri’s normal commute typically takes approximately 45 minutes, but with the increase in traffic it now takes her about twice as long to get to Southampton from Patchogue. She has also been recording where the traffic starts on County Road 39, noting that last week she was 13.2 miles from the district office on Leland Lane when the traffic got bad, and roughly 14.4 miles the next day.

“Everyone is opening their houses for the summer,” said Ms. Pontieri, who passes the time in her car by listening to the radio. “I have been leaving earlier and earlier to get to work. It is the worst it has been in recent years, since the road was widened.”

For Southampton Intermediate School teacher and East Quogue resident Melissa Rogge, traffic appears to be starting earlier in the year now. Ms. Rogge said it used to pick up closer to Memorial Day. Her commute along Montauk Highway used to take her approximately 15 minutes, but has steadily grown longer. Now she leaves her house no later than 6:15 a.m. to get to the school at 6:45 a.m.

Any later, she said, and she is stuck in traffic.

“I take my route down Montauk Highway and you think that there must be construction or an accident or something, and then I come to the realization that it is just a nightmare and you sit there,” Ms. Rogge said.

Southampton Hospital spokeswoman Marsha Kenny said increasing traffic is just part of the annual tradition of working and living on the East End—and also one of the first signs of spring. It is not hurting daily operations at the hospital, with staff members doing their part to arrive on time, she said.

“It is always a rude awakening,” said Ms. Kenny, who lives in Remsenburg herself. “But then it sort of settles down and we accommodate by leaving a little earlier or later, but it hasn’t affected staffing in any way. Whoever works in Southampton has been stuck, I’m sure, at some point, whether it is on Montauk Highway or Sunrise Highway, and there is nothing we can do about it.

“There is no getting around it,” she continued. “We just have to grin and bear it.”

One thing that could help, Mr. Neely said, is a Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Council being formed by State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. Last week, the Southampton Town Board passed a resolution supporting the council, which will study ways to expand public transportation options in eastern Suffolk to reduce the number of cars on the roads.

“The real focus is going to be to increase public transit,” Mr. Thiele said. “Opportunities to increase highway capacity, particularly on the South Fork, are fairly limited. It seems that every time an improvement is made, within a few years that is all used up and we are back to the old delays. We are looking at all aspects of transportation, but our highway is at capacity and the amount of public transit is underutilized.”

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This is the worst year since they widened 39 by far.
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Apr 25, 15 8:06 AM
The cold winter meant a later start for many contractors and landscapers, they are all now pressed for time, which means earlier starts, and higher volume. This year is the worst since the widening by far. Traffic backs up to 104 by 6:20am, sometimes earlier.
By det7408 (7), Bridgehampton on Apr 25, 15 8:22 AM
Do not delay, its time to build the Great Peconic Bay Causeway...Sign up here...Until then maybe they can have odd and even license plate days on the highway.
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Apr 25, 15 9:27 AM
Simple and inexpensive solution is to run shuttle trains from Westhampton to East Montauk. LIRR uses the tracks infrequently. Just need to build a a couple bypass spurs. Will give businesses access to larger labor pool and public transportation access to workers.
By harbor (415), East Hampton on Apr 25, 15 10:16 AM
Montauk.. not East Montauk.
By harbor (415), East Hampton on Apr 25, 15 10:17 AM
That's a valid idea. However the problems, as I see, is what do you do when you reach your destination train stop to get to where you work. Local transport? Then there is the issue of trade traffic. Many of these folks are transporting tools and equipment that make train commuting impractical. And are the parking lots in Westhampton big enough to accommodate all those cars without getting into the community outcry there for the additional traffic.

No more delays, the Causeway is the only ...more
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Apr 25, 15 11:20 AM
I agree with Harbor but start farther West at Speonk. Use the rail lines East of there as a light rail system. Lots of room for parking in the area. Add ramps to Sunrise at Speonk Riverhead Rd which would also benefit the SCCC campus. Thomas's point is also valid but most tools and equipment could be left on job sites or moved with one vehicle instead of ten.
By bird (829), Southampton on Apr 25, 15 8:34 PM
And while we're at it we should put County Road 39 back the way it was with one lane each direction and push the traffic back onto Sunrise and off local roads.
By bird (829), Southampton on Apr 25, 15 8:39 PM

NO TRAINS RUN EAST DURING RUSH HOUR! The Westhampton- East Hampton train takes a quick 38 minutes BUT the schedule (that hasn't changed since the 1950's) only runs East at 2:54AM (3:32AM arrival EH), 9:49AM (10:27AM arrival EH) and 1:12PM. Simply run a light rail train East and West from Speonk to East Hampton every hour! Intelligently scheduled trains would be VERY popular for commuters out here. Anybody agree?
By Non-Political (125), Hampton Bays on Apr 30, 15 1:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
Auto Train by Amtrak
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 25, 15 8:18 PM
Get rid of the railroad from Southampton to Montauk. A four lane highway would end traffic for good. Even the north fork has their four lane highway, but we don't. Workers need their trucks, and tools they aren't going to take a train to work. Lol. Not building the road isn' t going to slow traffic it will just make things worse.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Apr 25, 15 9:20 PM
2 members liked this comment
There's no perfect solution to the backup but I'm that school buses stopping beyond the end of Sunrise to pick up kids plays a role in extending the backup. Perhaps a centralized location off the main highway can be developed?

Also, I know it won't help the backup on Sunrise but how about making the traffic light in Water Mill a blinking yellow light until 9 AM to help with the usual backup to the diner?

By itsamazing (224), Southampton on Apr 26, 15 12:16 AM
Sorry Chief , there's not enough land along the tracks to put in a highway , Thank God. The traffic is the result of unrestrained development, just wait until Queen Anna's CPI and canal side project, the Sandy Hollow ghetto and the new King Kullen projects get started, the traffic today will be but a fond memory.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Apr 26, 15 8:48 AM
3 members liked this comment
It's called eminent domain, and they need to build the highway now. It isn't the development it is the lack of infrastructure for the east end. As much as I'm not a fan of ATH she didn't cause this problem.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Apr 26, 15 11:40 AM
Wetlands in Watermill render this idea moot I usually agree with you Chief but rail will not help builders, plumbers, electricians, landscapers , painters or anyone involved in construction
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Apr 26, 15 12:42 PM
There are things that can be done, but unfortunately politicians are more worried about plastic bags.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Apr 26, 15 12:59 PM
2 members liked this comment
Bigfresh has it right and puts it well: "unrestrained development" is the culprit, and if this Tuckahoe Center supermarket-plus project goes forward, the present problems on CR 39 will be "but a fond memory."
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Apr 26, 15 2:47 PM
2 members liked this comment
Unrestrained development? Building one house on 5 acres, and preserving 1,000's of acres sounds like restrained development to me. Up west they build 20 houses on 5 acres seems like you have a problem with math.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Apr 27, 15 2:30 PM
Sounds like you have a problem with geography
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Apr 27, 15 3:24 PM
All for your idea Chief... But it should be a private road for Southampton and East Hampton residents only...


If these carpet bagging carpenters want to come here every day from way up island fine... but we should have a way around the pain.
Apr 27, 15 5:17 PM appended by joe hampton
Just think how satisfying it would be to cruse by all the pain... On our own private sweet road between Flanders and Amagansett... with exits at Southampton,Bridgehampton, and East hampton...Waiving good morning to your fellow neighbors and busnessman like the old days...all while avoiding the stress and road rage of the outsiders on 39. Wow, do you all love it or what !
By joe hampton (3461), southampton on Apr 27, 15 5:17 PM
Time to build a park & ride at Exit 63.
By harbor hound (31), southampton on Apr 26, 15 2:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
The only way to fix this is with more and wider roads. Unrestrained development didnt cause this. Originally the sunrise was to be extended back in the original plan in the 60's. This was never built as it would be needed. That plan actually had the foresight to build a proper road.

The not in my back yard crowd prevented it from being built and now you are seeing the fruits of this poor decision.

Even if a new road was wanted it couldnt survive the cost of the right of way ...more
By Baymen87 (135), Lugoff, SC on Apr 27, 15 8:14 AM
1 member liked this comment
Actually, the lights at Tuckahoe and at Shinnecock Golf course are a 10 minute wait because of all the traffic on 27. I drive to East Hampton every morning and it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and 10 minutes.
By LovedHerTown (132), southampton on Apr 27, 15 10:44 AM
Like Baymen said the proper highway was never built. Nothing will fix this situation unless we build a new 4 lane hwy. The nimby idiots have been blocking this for years.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Apr 27, 15 2:28 PM
We are not going to be able to stem the flow of traffic caused by the development in Southampton and East Hampton over the years since the big highway to Montauk was dead on arrival. Unfortunately the hoped for limit of development didn't quite work out.

And given that the Town Board has apparently never seen a PDD it didn't love thereby creating even more traffic, the likelihood is that traffic snarls, traffic accidents and a good dose of road rage are only only gonna increase.

Nor ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Apr 27, 15 2:49 PM
Light rail Montauk to Greenport. Less than 7 miles of track could connect Speonk to LIRR in Riverhead just west of Riverhead Building Supply. Following LIPA right-of-way from there south across the Peconic River at the weir dam just west of Roadhouse Pizza, all the way down to highway 51 at Suffolk County Community College (with a station there), then following Speonk-Riverhead Road south to Speonk LIRR station, where an interchange pointing north already exists. An overpass or crossing at Main ...more
Apr 27, 15 3:44 PM appended by loading...
...and with the corrupt Speaker of the New York State Assembly Shelly Silver finally ousted, Peconic County Railroad sounds nice.
By loading... (601), quiogue on Apr 27, 15 3:44 PM
That will never work. It makes too much sense.
By bird (829), Southampton on Apr 27, 15 6:57 PM
I'm not saying that some of these aren't good ideas, but a lot of you are seriously delusional if you think any of it will ever happen.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Apr 27, 15 4:35 PM
I absolutely love Chief and Joe's Idea of making a private road out of the LIRR . We should be exempt from the frustration of the trade parade. After all they come here each day to exploit our home towns for there gains why should we have to suffer.

Plus it would just feel great wouldn't it ! lol
By 27dan (2854), Shinnecock Hills on Apr 27, 15 5:55 PM
I just did an aerial fly over with Goggle maps there is plenty of room, you could do two lanes on either side of the tracks without effecting almost anyones land,

Look for yourselves the only reason not to do this is money and I am sure the (RESIDENTS) would not mind purchasing a sticker along with proof of residency to be able to cruse on down the road, Its genius!

And did I mention how great it would feel!
Apr 27, 15 7:20 PM appended by 27dan
I am not suggesting a four lane road just one lane in either direction with a shoulder. No heavy trucks just professionals, resident's and local tradesman leisurely commuting back and forth with dignity and respect. Just think what it would do for our property values as well!
By 27dan (2854), Shinnecock Hills on Apr 27, 15 7:20 PM
IMHO we live in one of the greatest places on the planet, deal with the 6 months of traffic and thank God you don't live in some UTI hell hole
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Apr 27, 15 7:37 PM
what you say is true bf.

what dan is saying would be very pleasant also,

if it was done as a resident only county road. i have to admit the thought of being in that club and not having to go out on that crazy cr 39 does make me sign in relief,

but dan i am afraid it will never happen people around here warm up very slowly to any new idea. even a good one.
Apr 27, 15 7:45 PM appended by Erin 27 E
I meant to say country sorry :)
By Erin 27 E (1281), hampton bays on Apr 27, 15 7:45 PM
"I survived CR39" T-shirts on sale now!!

Leave no aspect of the East End unexploited!!!!

Mo' people, mo' problems...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 28, 15 12:34 AM
poor mr z, never was able to leave 1974
By Erin 27 E (1281), hampton bays on Apr 28, 15 10:39 AM
Considering I wasn't even alive, that would be rather difficult.

Once again, you display your stunning intellect. Can you even imagine the lawsuits stemming from a "resident only" thoroughfare? Do you people actually consider the full and long term ramifications of your "ideas", or do you just shoot from the hip firmly planting bullets in boots?

And, Dan may want to review his "survey", unless he plans on highway construction in wetlands, and tearing down quite a few houses in ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 28, 15 12:02 PM
Not so much maybe 3 houses and it would be so cool
Apr 28, 15 6:41 PM appended by 27dan
I am sure marty could work out the wetlands problem with pine barran credits, Admit it you just dont like it becuse it would not be fair to alland goes aganst your egalitarian principles. It would be a private road thats your problem with it and you know it. dont worry it will never happen. You must love that obama is making sure Iran has the bomb.
By 27dan (2854), Shinnecock Hills on Apr 28, 15 6:41 PM
You're forgetting the baseball field. The new office building at the old station. Mill Pond Lane.

It has nothing to do with any of the idiotic reasons you suppose, it's simply not feasible. The price of the land alone would be ridiculous.

Then again, there hasn't been a Republican who reduced a deficit in at least fifty years...
Apr 28, 15 11:04 PM appended by Mr. Z
P.S. Buh-Bye Big Oil: "Using an innovative and proprietary NRL electrolytic cation exchange module (E-CEM), both dissolved and bound CO2 are removed from seawater at 92 percent efficiency by re-equilibrating carbonate and bicarbonate to CO2 and simultaneously producing H2. The gases are then converted to liquid hydrocarbons by a metal catalyst in a reactor system."
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 28, 15 11:04 PM
Make this ne road a toll road at 30 bucks a month, and we will fix our traffic problem.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Apr 28, 15 11:25 AM
2 members liked this comment
On a related note, anybody know what they're putting in at the corner of Tuckahoe Ln and 27?
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Apr 28, 15 1:00 PM
Yes, that's the Fairfield development, approved a number of years ago and comprised of 50+ new condo units.
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Apr 28, 15 3:19 PM
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Apr 28, 15 3:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
Of course this isn't the result of the influx of illegal immigrants. So lets make the roads wider for them. Tear down those beautiful trees and replace with Asphalt and more commercial buildings.
By SH Cm (2), southampton on Apr 29, 15 8:25 AM
You can't possibly be this dumb. Who made the conditions attractive for illegal immigrants to come here looking for work?
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Apr 29, 15 9:11 AM
1 member liked this comment
not me
By Undocumented Democrat (2065), southampton on Apr 29, 15 4:51 PM
Just wait for Anna & Co. on the town board to approve the proposed shopping center in Tuckahoe by Sandy Hollow Rd. You will see real gridlock if that thing's built. Supermarkets pull in thousands of customers a day. Hampton Bays King Kullen has 1500 sales a day in the winter, easily double that in summer. Just imagine the effect of 3000 or more cars heading to a market on Rt. 39 during the summer, then add a bank, restaurant and another drugstore. Bingo! Gridlock.
By moonpie (43), Southampton on Apr 30, 15 11:41 PM
So Moonpie you would allow this development on a side road, where it can be built by right? I doubt it.

Too many people dont understand that the reason those who were raised there leave LI is because of this attitude. We are supposed to put up with having to drive into NYC or Nassau for a job and get home and have to drive a long way for other basic needs like a good hospital or back to school shopping.

Supermarkets that were used in the 70-80s are no longer enough. More population ...more
By Baymen87 (135), Lugoff, SC on May 1, 15 8:29 AM