Architects get resident input on proposed Peconic River footbridge

Eric Wright_2
Eric Wright, right, speaks to residents in Riverside before hearing feedback at a Monday night Flanders, Riverside, Northampton Community Association meeting. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

A wooden structure with a minimal incline and a few seating areas are some ideas residents said they liked about a proposed pedestrian bridge for the Peconic River.

Southampton Town consultants from AECOM, a landscape architect firm, presented several bridge design options to a group of about 40 people at Monday night’s Flanders, Riverside & Northampton Community Association meeting at Phillips Avenue Elementary School.

Southampton has submitted an application to the state to secure a $2 million grant for construction and is awaiting approval.

The start of the bridge in Riverside is proposed for an area next to the Long Island Aquarium that consultants say is too shallow for boats. There are two peninsulas near each other on the south side of the river, on county parkland, that are being recommended for the other end of the bridge.

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, and Riverhead Town Board members Jody Giglio and John Dunleavy attended the meeting.

Mr. Schneiderman, who first proposed the bridge last year, described the plan to a reporter as a “critical element to increasing foot traffic into a revitalized Riverside.”

“We believe it will spur investment for both sides of the river, draw people to downtown Riverhead, and will promote good health and an appreciation of the environment,” he said.

Consultants said that although federal law requires a minimum width of 5 feet for pedestrian bridges, they are recommending 8 feet in order to ease crowding and create a more pleasurable walking experience. In addition, consultants are recommending to increase the width up to 11-feet in some areas to place benches overlooking the water.

The green lines represent landing areas for a proposed pedestrian bridge over the Peconic River. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo photo of AECOM handout)
The green lines represent possible landing areas for a proposed pedestrian bridge over the Peconic River. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo photo of AECOM handout)

The proposal allows for an 18-foot clearance (20-foot for low tide) to accommodate for larger boats passing underneath.

The consultants offered two ADA-compliant options for the bridge. Most residents said Monday they prefer the design with the lesser incline, which would result in a longer bridge.

When some residents asked about parking, weight capacity and safety, AECOM project manager Eric Wright said each issue will addressed as the proposal becomes finalized, adding he believes parking on the south side for the bridge may be available in the county parkland.

Mr. Wright said the next steps in the planning process are to review feedback and conduct a cost analysis of the project.

Although consultants showed several options for the bridge’s material, including painted metal and steel cable, residents said they prefer to have it made of wood in order to complement the area’s rural feel.

Mr. Schneiderman said he’s looking forward to hearing feedback from the community about the project. As for a design concept, he said he likes the idea of a mixture of traditional and modern elements, such as represented at the Highline in Manhattan.

“Maybe something can be designed that really speaks to the glorious past of Riverhead but also hints toward the future of the community,” he said.

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