County launches Route 24 circle study

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The Route 24 traffic circle in Riverside.

The Suffolk County Department of Public Works is beginning a comprehensive study on what to do with the traffic circle on Route 24 in Riverside.

Eliminating one of the five roads leading to the circle is one possible solution to the traffic flow problems at the circle and its approaches, county officials said.

Bill Hillman, the DPW’s chief engineer, said the county just recently signed a contract with Nelson, Pope and Voorhis, a Melville-based planning and engineering company to investigate ways to improve the traffic capacity of that circle.

“This is a five-legged intersection,” Mr. Hillman said, meaning the circle can be accessed by five different roads, Nugent Drive (County Road 94), Flanders Road (Route 24), Riverleigh Avenue (County Road 104), Lake Avenue (County Road 63) and Peconic Avenue. Woodhull Avenue also merges with Nugent Drive near the Shell gas station.

“Traditionally, you would only have four on a roundabout. Five makes it difficult to realize substantive improvements,” Mr. Hillman said.

Because of this, one of the things the study will look at is eliminating one of the access points to the circle, Mr. Hillman said.

But he cautioned that the study is just beginning and nothing has been decided yet.

“All of the questions you might ask are the questions the study is seeking to answer,” he said.

To begin with, the study will look at traffic counts and various conceptual plans and then analyze the pros and cons of each, Mr. Hillman said.

“We don’t go to the public until we have something to present,” he said, adding that the study isn’t expected to have recommendations that can be brought to the public for a while. “It will probably be another 18 months before we can actually go to the public and talk intelligently about problems and solutions.”

Last year, Riverhead’s Roanoke Avenue traffic circle was made into a two-lane roundabout following years of studies and proposals and debates over whether to keep the circle or replace it with a traffic light.

The Route 58 traffic circle study was more straightforward because the county was only considering adding a second lane to the circle, or replacing the circle with a traffic signal, Mr. Hillman said. The Riverside study will be more difficult because one of the options being looked at is removing one of the lanes accessing the circle.

“When you talk about removing lanes, the traffic from that lane has to go somewhere,” he said.

Replacing the circle with a traffic light could be another option, he said, “but community input will be strongly weighed.”

“In the Route 58 study, our analysis said a traffic signal would be slightly better than a roundabout, but the community was opposed to that idea,” Mr. Hillman said, noting DPW doesn’t like to push forward with plans any community opposes.

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