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Jun 7, 2016 5:34 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Riverside Traffic Circle Work Could Start In Fall

The Riverside traffic circle will be expanded with county funds.
Jun 8, 2016 9:56 AM

Long-awaited renovations to the Riverside traffic circle could start as early as this fall, officials have confirmed just one week after the Suffolk County Legislature approved funding for the $5 million project.

The plan is to widen the circle and transform it into an oval featuring two lanes of traffic. The money also will be used to install new drainage and landscaping.

The circle is one of the primary arteries in Riverside, as it essentially connects Southampton and Riverhead towns, and has five roads feeding into it.

This week, proponents of the project were ecstatic that the funding—$4 million of which was included in this year’s Suffolk County capital budget, though the county still requires final authorization to go out to bid—was allocated for the work, saying the overhaul is needed to move revitalization plans forward in the hamlet.

“This is a critical piece to making traffic flow in the area and helping to foster economic growth,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said. “Particularly since we are planning on adding commercial and residential activity to the area. It is tough when the current circle is failing, and then to add more traffic into it is a bad idea.”

The oval-shaped roundabout will boast new sidewalks and crosswalks. Design plans were finalized in November 2014 when Southampton Town voters approved a land swap handing over ownership of a one-sixth of an acre piece of parkland on the northwest side of the circle, near the Peconic River, to Suffolk County. The land will be cleared as part of the expansion.

Originally, the plan called for $4 million to be included in the county’s 2016 capital budget. But last year the county considered pushing back the funding until 2017 or 2018, a move that many said would have further delayed already sluggish revitalization efforts in downtown Riverside. The county later restored the funding to this year’s budget.

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming recently pushed to have an additional $1 million dedicated to the plan in the county’s 2017 capital budget, a move that was approved on June 1. Both the additional funds, and the appropriation of the $4 million, were approved, 16-1, with County Legislator Thomas Barraga opposing.

“We have been working on getting the traffic issues resolved at this location for many years,” Ms. Fleming said this week. “It’s an infamous traffic snarl with such a long backup during rush hour that it has to be a top priority for the county to take care of it. I am very pleased we have gotten the support to do that.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Schneiderman said he talked with Suffolk County Department of Public Works Chief Engineer Bill Hillman last week, who confirmed that the project will go out to bid as soon as the county loan is finalized. The supervisor was also told that the county intends to break ground in the fall.

Mr. Hillman was not available for comment this week.

According to Mr. Schneiderman, the project will take roughly 18 months to complete, noting that the work will be difficult to finish while keeping the traffic circle open to vehicles.

Ron Fisher, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, said he is thrilled that the county has approved funding for the work, noting that it renews its commitment to revitalize the hamlet. He also noted that overhauling the traffic circle was part of the Riverside Action Plan approved by the Town Board in December. That plan gives residents and commercial property owners the opportunity to keep the current zoning for their properties or adopt one of six new zones that allow for new development.

“FRNCA is ecstatic,” Mr. Fisher said. “It shows the commitment is there from the county to get the process started and for the redevelopment the community has been waiting for.”

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