June 14, 2006

North Fork Trolley: Traffic Solution?

As Town Hall was buzzing last week with talk of a hotly debated new traffic study, two other men stepped forward to present their own solution to the parking and traffic predicaments on the North Fork.

John Burke, CEO and president of The Vintage Group, Inc, and Thomas Ingald, president of North Fork Trolley Company, were before the Southold Town Board with a plan for what they consider a workable solution to the area's traffic woes.

The proposal, they say, aims to address traffic concerns expressed by some over the Cross Sound Ferry location in Orient.

And, with rumored plans for a new film studio in Connecticut and expansion at Foxwoods, Burke predicted the problems will only worsen in future months.

According to Burke and Ingald, casino guests who travel by Sea Jet generate a substantial amount of revenue, but must walk in the elements to their cars, parked at the CSF property.

The solution, they say, lies in providing parking for Sea Jet passengers at a temporary Riverhead parking facility until the Vintage Group's proposed parking garage at Vintage Square is completed in downtown Riverhead.

Burke reported that he expected to sign a contract with the Town of Riverhead for purchase of the land soon.

The plan is for North Fork Trolley to contract with Sea Jet to transport their passengers to the ferry dock at Orient Piont and bring them back to their vehicles in Riverhead.

In New London, say Burke and Ingald, the same service is provided and financed by CSF or the casinos.

The plan will eliminate approximately 150 cars a day, or 108,900 vehicles a year, on North Fork roads, and will reduce North Fork traffic by as much as 94.5%.

But CSF has parking plans of its own: CSF filed an application to the ZBA on February 23, 2006 requesting a special permit to park cars on the two parcels of land that "Cross Sound has owned for over a decade or more," said Stan Mickus, CSF director of marketing. The land is directly adjacent to the existing snack bar parking lot, used for ferry parking for over 50 years, long before Cross Sound owned the Orient Ferry.

That additional CSF parking, maintains Burke and Ingald, operates under a "build it and they will come" theory and may solve the parking problem, but will only add to traffic concerns.

Burke and Ingald asked for the support of the Southold Town Board, and said that they would like to sit down with the CSF to discuss options. The support of the town, as well as the county, the state, and the Connecticut casinos, is integral to a solution.

Burke reminded that they had been before the board a year ago, and had come back to apprise new Supervisor Scott Russell and Councilman Al Krupski of the situation. 

The parking plan, said Burke, can only be a win-win: "We like to believe this will be the new threshold for the North Fork."

Mickus said the CSF had no comment except: "We maintain the fact that the safest, most practical solution at Orient Point is to take the cars off the sides of Route 25 and put them in the property that we own."

Love Lane Open Late?

Members of the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce requested that the town board consider closing Love Lane to cars from 5 p.m. Saturday evening to 5 p.m. the following Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day this season.

The reason: so residents and tourists can stroll and enjoy the North Fork ambiance and amenities, such as new Stampcrete sidewalks and new gas lamps. Stores will be able to stay open late, should they so choose.

The board agreed to consider the idea and asked residents for comment.

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