RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) ~ May 31, 2017 ~ Gridlock greets drivers and cars come to a standstill at all hours of the day at a well-known traffic circle in Suffolk County, but now big changes are underway to convert the five-way traffic circle into a modern roundabout.
As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reports, some residents don’t like the timetable for the two-year dig.
It’s a daunting crossing for a mother and her two children. Emergency vehicles fight for space in their race to the hospital. Some call the confusing traffic circle where five busy roads converge in Riverhead a “dangerous failure.”
“The traffic circle we stand in front of today was initially constructed between 1937 and 1947,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.
So is it time for a change? Groundbreaking is underway to transform the one-lane traffic circle into a modern two-lane, oval roundabout, with its unique five-legged spokes.
The Riverside Circle takes drivers to Westhampton and Quogue, to Flanders and Hampton Bays. The courts, jails and state police are all a stone’s throw away. It’s also the gateway to north fork wine country and close to the busy shopping mall scene, McLogan reports. It sees tens of thousands of cars each day.
“The traffic can be backed up literately for miles in the summer, so I’m not happy to hear this,” resident Nancy Funke said.
Local homeowners, like the Funkes, are distressed that the project could take up to two years.
However, the bulk of the work will be done at night, and the circle will not be shut down during the day.
“The whole idea behind fixing the circle is to get traffic flowing again. So we might have to endure a little bit in the short term to get that longer term benefit,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said.
The project will also enable Suffolk County to design and install a new storm sewer system to mitigate flooding issues and treat the nitrogen-laced water before it is discharged into the Peconic River.
“Rain gardens’ they are being called. That will recharged the water, because when this was built in the ‘30s, the water and runoff drained directly to the Peconic River,” Sandy Adams, of the Flanders-Riverside-Northampton Civic Association, said.
The old system resulted in massive fish die-offs and threats to drinking water quality.
The new roundabout will be environmentally friendly, say advocates, and give a big boost to Main Street businesses by relieving their suffering from traffic circle slowdowns.