Despite facing numerous obstacles over the years, a $5.3 million project to widen the roundabout in Riverside was completed ahead of schedule, officials said Friday.
The work started in 2017 but plans for the project began many years before that, some officials estimate as many as 15 years earlier.
Officials had expected it to be done in November or December but it was done earlier this month, with a ribbons cutting ceremony held Friday.
“This is a really important intersection where five roads come together,” said Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman during the ceremony. “For many years, the traffic has been backing up and affecting the local economy.”
Mr. Schneiderman said there have been no backlogs or traffic jams since the work was done.
“The Riverside roundabout is working,” he said.
The project called for converting the single-lane traffic circle, which was built in the 1930s, into a two-lane “roundabout.”
A roundabout is different from a traffic circle in that the approach angles are designed to make cars slow down as they enter or leave the roundabout, according to Bill Hillman, the chief engineer for the Suffolk County Department of Public Works. Drivers in a roundabout also can better determine whether approaching vehicles are staying in the roundabout or leaving, he said. Collisions that occur in roundabouts usually involve slower moving vehicles, resulting in less damage, according to Mr. Hillman.
The $4 million in funding the project had initially received was supposed to be delayed by three years by County Executive Steve Bellone’s proposed capital budget in 2015, but was later restored after residents and town officials attended county meetings to rally for restoration of the funding.
Once the money was restored, officials discovered that it would not be enough, and residents and officials again lobbied the county for an additional $1 million, according to County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor), who was get to get the extra funds for the project in 2017.
Mr. Bellone’s office put the total cost at $5.3 million Friday.
“It took a lot of people to make this happen,” said Mr. Schneiderman.
Ms. Fleming said one of the reasons the extra $1 million was needed to ensure the work would be done at night, when it would have the least impact on traffic.
The project also required a land swap with Southampton Town that required an alienation of park land on a small piece of property in 2014. That, in turn, required a public referendum.
The county had considered 26 different plans, including one that cut off Riverleigh Avenue from the circle, a move that was dropped in response to community opposition.
Mr. Schneiderman and others said the improved traffic flow will lead to increased economic development in Riverside, such as the building already underway at 20 Riverleigh Avenue.
Officials from Riverhead Town also attended the ribbon cutting and said that the improved traffic flow will help their town as well.
Photo Caption: A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Friday to commemorate the completion of the Riverside roundabout widening. (Tim Gannon photo)