Editorial: Let’s learn from the Riverside bridge plan

07/16/2015 6:00 AM |

Over the past several years, these editorial pages have called for plenty of funding, resources and advocacy to improve the Riverside area.

But now that the price tag is in and consultants have been paid for renderings, Southampton Town officials are being wise to hold off on moving forward with a bridge that would connect the downtrodden hamlet with downtown Riverhead.

With a potential cost of as much as $3.9 million, the bridge plan faced steep odds from the start — and not just from the steep slope needed to make sure boats were able to pass under it. Support was always shaky, as Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman George Gabrielsen voted against even studying the prospect of building the walkway.

And between the vital infrastructure projects needed for Riverside, such as wastewater management and traffic patterns, and continuing efforts to improve Main Street in Riverhead, justifying any cost for a pedestrian bridge was very likely a long shot when it came to garnering support from the broader public.

Focusing on building blocks in Riverside is a far better use of time and money — and aiming to leverage $200,000 for a public park is a good step, especially since a new traffic circle looms on the horizon in 2016.

Less than two years ago, the cost for a sewage treatment plant in the area was estimated at around $3.75 million. Instead of studying the bridge plan at a cost of $85,000 (grant funds, yes — but those funds come from somewhere), leveraging that money on concepts within a closer reach would have been the right call. Now, the town is back to the drawing board as it applies for grant funds to design a park.

Playing Monday morning quarterback is easy, no doubt, but the lesson to be learned here is pretty simple: While broader plans and ideas in Riverside and surrounding areas are certainly nice to have, let’s focus on what is within grasp right now — both physically and financially.

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