Elected state and county officials updated residents Monday night on plans to redesign the Riverside traffic circle and improve the roads along Route 24.
New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who represents the South Fork, and Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman were guest speakers at the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association meeting at the Crohan Community Center in Flanders.
At the meeting, Mr. Thiele said the state Department of Transportation’s plan is unique because it was inspired by community demand and not the other way around.
“For me … [the] key to this as far as recommendations and what improvements should be made is, what is it that the community wants?” Mr. Thiele said.
For past several months, the DOT has been collecting and crunching data for a “detailed study” of the entire Route 24 corridor, he said. But the analysis remains incomplete because of delays caused by Hurricane Sandy, he said.
As of January, accident and speed analyses have been completed and data for potential traffic lights and signage is still being collected, Mr. Thiele said. About 20 percent of the traffic light data still needs to be gathered, and will likely be finished by the end of February.
From start to finish, the project will take four to five years to complete, he said.
“This is not something that’s going to happen overnight,” Mr. Thiele said. “You can’t get to the last step until you’ve taken the first step.”
Mr. Thiele recommended setting up a working committee by February, comprising elected officials and local residents, to come up with a list of suggestions for the state’s reconstruction plans.
“We’ll be your advocates, but the impetus for this really needs to be, what does the community want to see?” he said.
Residents and civic group members said they’d like to see more traffic lights and ways to slow down traffic on Route 24 to make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
Establishing the area along Route 24 as its own destination was also high on the priority list.
Mr. Thiele said the DOT understands it needs to make sure “this community isn’t just something where people drive through on [Route] 24 to somewhere else.”
The DOT’s efforts will “dovetail” with county work on the Riverside traffic circle, he said.
Mr. Schneiderman said the county is looking to redesign the circle and tackle sewage concerns in the area.
The traffic circle is too congested now and needs to be fixed, Mr. Schneiderman said.
“It’s going to be a major problem because it doesn’t work right,” he said. “You have five roads coming in and a single lane. It’s going to be a traffic nightmare over the next 10 years,” he said.
The county has proposed eliminating Riverleigh Drive’s access to the circle, reducing the number of streets coming into the circle to four, he said.
A new road would be created near the vacant diner property in Riverside to provide access to the traffic circle by connecting Riverleigh to Lake Avenue.
At a meeting in October, New York State Police Sgt. Paul Slovenski said he would oppose any plan to cut the road off at the traffic circle. At Monday’s meeting one resident exclaimed “No!” in surprise at Mr. Schneiderman’s proposal.
But the legislator said it is the easiest solution to the problem. However, he added that the community’s input would play a large role in the final decision.
“Nothing is going to be done without community consensus,” he said.
In addition to the redesigned traffic circle, the county is also looking into increasing sewage capacity, Mr. Schneiderman said, adding that a new treatment plant would need to be built, or waste would have to be moved elsewhere, in order to spur economic growth in Riverside.
The area, he said, doesn’t have sufficient sewage capacity now to support commercial use.
The county has been studying the area for two years through grant funding and will have preliminary findings completed in March.