September 06, 2006

More Relief Measures Considered for CR 39

Residents who've enjoyed smooth sailing under a pilot program on County Road 39 in Southampton, slated to end on September 15, may soon find relief in a Suffolk County program that seeks to mitigate congestion for months to come.

Tom Neely, Southampton Town's Director of Public Transportation and Traffic Safety, came before the Southampton Town Board during last Friday's work session to outline the county's plan for easing traffic woes.

In a letter discussing planned improvements to County Road 39, Suffolk County Department of Public Works Commissioner Charles Bartha said that while his department is in the process of embarking upon a large-scale project that will reduce congestion and eliminate unsafe conditions, a series of projects will ensue.

The first project involves elimination of direct access to eastbound Sunrise Highway from eastbound North Road west of the intersection, and the second eliminates left turns from Inlet Road onto eastbound Sunrise Highway. Both are commonly known as the "County Road 39 Merge."

Under the current roadway configuration, said Bartha, there are three merges that cause traffic snarls, including the merge from two lanes on Sunrise Highway to one lane on CR 39, the merge from North Road onto CR 39, and the merge from right turns at Hill Station Road.

Although the plan is scheduled to begin on September 18, a public hearing is required before the Town of Southampton can designate Hills Station Road for one way traffic only, proceeding in a southerly direction from County Road 39 to Longview Drive, Mondays through Fridays, between the hours of 5:30 and 10 a.m. The public hearing will be held next Tuesday at 1 p.m. at Southampton Town Hall. The plan was suggested by Dunn Engineering in "A Vision for County Road 39."

If enacted, the legislation will be put in place from September 18 through December 31, 2008, until permanent improvements are made by the Suffolk County DPW.

In discussing the county's long-term plans for the roadway, Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney expressed two reservations about the $70 million project whose end goal is a roadway with two lanes heading in each direction. Most critical, he said, is the need for public safety.

"In the last week, I've had two near events," said Heaney, as he was trying to navigate into what "should be a stacking lane." Turning lanes, he said, should be carefully considered.

Clearly defined, heavy yellow striping, cross hatching and stacking lanes are crucial, said the supervisor. "Maintaining the center, common turning lane is an invitation to continue seeing vehicular deaths on that road."

The supervisor also suggested that, while widening the road, LIPA place utilities underground and eliminate the danger of moving utility poles out of the limits of easements.

Neely said the transportation committee is slated to meet and will present its findings to the board on September 22.

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