Barracks head: Don’t cut Riverleigh Avenue from Flanders circle

FRNCA, New York State Police, Riverside, Flanders, Northampton
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Sergeant Paul Slovenski at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

The station commander of the New York State Police barracks on Riverleigh Avenue in Riverside is opposing a county proposal to cut that road off at the Riverside traffic circle.

Sergeant Paul Slovenski, who’s commanded the Troopers East East barracks since 1988, made his comments at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, where he was a guest speaker.

The county Department of Public Works is in the midst of doing a study of ways to improve the traffic flow at the Riverside circle and has suggested cutting off Riverleigh Avenue, also known as County Road 104, from the circle heading north toward Riverhead.

I would be totally against that,” Sgt. Slovenski said when asked for his opinion of closing off Riverleigh Avenue at the circle Wednesday.
“For the life of me, I can’t understand the reasoning behind it.”

He suggested that there are other roads there that could be closed down that have less traffic, apparently referring to Lake Avenue.

“It’s a heavily traveled road,” Sgt. Slovenski said. “Where would you put the traffic? Riverhead improved its traffic circle and this one could probably stand some improvement too, but closing down a road? I just don’t see that as improvement.”

At a FRNCA meeting in June — and at a Southampton Town Board work session in February — Bill Hillman, the DPW’s chief engineer, discussed several alternative plans being considered by DPW for the circle.

“The traffic circle has five legs,” he said in June, referring to the five roads that connect to the circle. “The best alternative is to reduce that to four legs.”

Two proposals were discussed at the time.

One proposal, which Mr. Hillman said would probably be too expensive, closed off Lake Avenue (County Road 63 from the circle) and instead called for buying up property where the Budget Host Inn and the former Riverboat Diner are located in order to create a new road merging County Road 63 traffic with that of County Road 104.

The cost of acquisition made this proposal very expensive, and likely to take a long time to complete, he said.

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The other option called for closing off Riverleigh Avenue at the traffic circle, with the exception of traffic heading east onto Flanders Road.

The other northbound traffic on Riverleigh Avenue would be diverted onto a new road that the county would build running from the south end of Old Quogue Road and connecting with Flanders Road by the old drive-in property, near where the town is planning a new Riverside hamlet center.

Another traffic circle or roundabout would be created where Flanders Road and the new road intersect, Mr. Hillman said at the time.

The section of Riverleigh Avenue that stretches from Old Quogue Road to the circle would then become a town road, and the new road would be a county road, Mr. Hillman said.

While this was described as the “preferred” alternative at the time, Mr. Hillman said in June that “we’re halfway through this project today, and we’re not prepared to make recommendations yet.”

He said that by the end of the year, “we’ll probably have some alternatives that are fully analyzed, and some concepts that we can recommend.”

But Mr. Hillman stressed that the road already gets a rating of “D to F” for traffic flow at peak times, “which is gridlock.”

He said that the traffic is only going to get worse in the future if nothing is done.

The trooper barracks is located just south of the traffic circle, as is the River Woods mobile home park (formerly called MacLeod’s), residents noted at the time.

In addition, ambulances from many areas take Riverleigh Avenue through the circle on their way to Peconic Bay Medical Center.

“In addition to Lake Avenue and Riverleigh Avenue, the Riverhead circle also has cars coming and going from Flanders Road, Nugent Drive, and Peconic Avenue, and Woodhull Avenue, a smaller residential street, also has occasional traffic seeking to enter the circle.

Officials from the DPW could not immediately be reached for comment.

At the June meeting, Mr. Hillman said that simply closing off Lake Avenue and directing that traffic onto County Road 51 (also known as Riverhead-Moriches Road), which already connects with Nugent Drive, “would not solve much of the problem.”

Mr. Hillman did say in June that the county would try to develop a solution to allow emergency service vehicles to have direct access from Riverleigh Avenue into the traffic circle.

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