A ceremonial ground-breaking Tuesday kicked off the $5 million project to expand the Riverside traffic circle and turn it into a state-of the art, two-lane roundabout.
Work has been ongoing to relocate utilities in preparation for the widening and County Executive Steve Bellone announced Tuesday that the road work will begin this week and the job is expected to be completed by December 2018.
The work will be done between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., with limited traffic flow to minimize road closures, according to Mr. Bellone, who said the cost will be borne entirely by the county.
New drainage will be installed to prevent road water runoff from flowing into the Peconic River, officials said.
“This project represents the future of the new Riverside and shows that we are committed to accomplishing major infrastructure projects that will help spur revitalization,” Mr. Bellone said in a press release.
The widening of the 80-year-old traffic circle was referred to in a press release as “the most significant capital improvement project in more than 50 years.”
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said the work is essential to both traffic flow and the local economy.
“The circle backs up on a daily basis and is projected to get worse every year,” he said in the release.
A roundabout differs from a traffic circle in that it has different approach angles aimed at reducing speed, according to officials.
The two-lane roundabout is seen by local officials and civic leaders as a key to redevelopment plans for Riverside, which also will rely on improved sewage treatment. That’s something Southampton Town officials hope to kickstart by having Riverhead Town extend part of its sewage treatment system into Riverside. Riverhead already provides sewage treatment for the county center, courts and jail, which are in Riverside.
Southampton Town approved new, optional zoning for Riverside in 2015 that will allow greater development density in exchange for greater environmental protection. It also gives property owners the option of retaining current zoning on individual parcels.
In 2015, members of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association had to fight to get the county Legislature to restore funding for the project after county officials proposed postponing it until 2018. The $4 million cost of the job has also increased by $1 million since then. The county also initially proposed eliminating access to the new roundabout from County Road 104, but dropped that idea after it encountered opposition from the community.
Photo caption: County Executive Steve Bellone at a press conference in Riverside Tuesday. (Courtesy photo)