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Jun 13, 2012 12:55 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Residents Vet Options For Riverside Traffic Circle Redesign

Jun 13, 2012 1:30 PM

The chief engineer for the Suffolk County Department of Public Works spoke with residents on Monday night to listen to their concerns and discuss potential ways to reduce traffic congestion at the traffic circle in Riverside.

The engineer, William Hillman, and Suffolk County Legislator Jay H. Schneiderman told members of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, who met that night at the David W. Crohan Community Center in Flanders, that more research must be done before determining which of several redesign options would best address the problem.

Mr. Hillman said he expects all the alternatives to be fully analyzed by the end of the year and, if all goes as planned, construction could be completed by 2015 at the earliest. But he also noted that the project might not be finished for another eight to 10 years.

The best option on the table so far, according to the county’s analysis, would eliminate the Riverleigh Avenue leg, also known as County Road 104, so that only four roads would feed into the traffic circle. That plan, Mr. Hillman said, would allow the construction of two lanes all the way around the circle. Under that plan, Riverleigh Avenue traffic would be rerouted to run through a residential neighborhood before connecting with Flanders Road; a traffic signal or another, smaller roundabout would be installed at that intersection.

That option is expected to cost between $5 million and $6 million, according to Mr. Hillman. The county, meanwhile, is still researching three other options, while, on Monday, residents offered two additional options that they said the county also should consider.

On Monday, Mr. Hillman pointed to a chart projected on the wall in the front of the meeting room that displayed each of the five roads leading into the circle and data on how many cars enter and exit from each road. The data was graded using a letter system to indicate the level of service, with A meaning traffic flowed very well and F indicating gridlock.

“Almost everything is a failure here,” Mr. Hillman said, pointing to the Es and Fs next to the current traffic design.

The chart also showed the projected level of service each of the possible designs would allow for if constructed. The four-leg option would result in mostly As and Bs, with some Ds, Mr. Hillman said.

“It doesn’t solve the problem completely, but it’s actually the best alternative from a macro observation,” he said, adding that county officials have not yet examined the potential impact of the design on local emergency services.

Mr. Hillman said the plan, if pursued, will increase traffic on Old Quogue Road, as vehicles that have traditionally taken Riverleigh Avenue to the circle and points north will be routed along that road. He said Old Quogue Road would have to be widened and sidewalks installed. Mr. Hillman said another road would have to be constructed in the underdeveloped Riverside Hamlet Center.

Mark West, who lives in Riverside, expressed concern that rerouting Riverleigh Avenue would make it difficult for those living in the nearby River Woods mobile home park, formerly named McLeod’s, to access Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. “That would be a disaster,” he said.

Two other options presented by Mr. Hillman would keep all five legs of the traffic circle and, therefore, would not permit the construction of two lanes all the way around. One option would change the shape of the roundabout from a circle to an egg, which Mr. Hillman said would lengthen the distance between the point at which traffic enters the roundabout from Riverleigh and Lake avenues. Mr. Schneiderman said he favors that option because it resolves safety issues by spreading out the entrances into the circle.

A third option would allow for two lanes to be constructed around a portion of the circle, allowing traffic to flow better, though Mr. Hillman said that option would not work 20 years down the road.

Mr. Hillman said those two options would be cheaper, noting that he would expect them to cost between $1 million and $2 million to complete.

He said once county officials narrow down their options, and present them to the public, they will forward them to state engineers who will study them and advise the county on which would work best. “They’re the experts and we really value their opinion,” he said. “We don’t really have the experience to override it.”

A community member sitting in the audience suggested making Peconic Avenue a one-way road leading north out of the traffic circle—eliminating the southbound lane. Traffic from Main Street would only be able to make a left onto Center Drive, which could be converted into a one-way street going south. Mr. Hillman said that option does have merit but would need to be investigated.

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