Thanks to understaffing at the county Department of Public Works, expansion of the Riverside traffic circle isn’t likely to begin earnest for at least another two years, according to county Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk).
After Southampton Town residents OK’d a land swap in a referendum last fall, the county allocated about $500,000 in design money for the project this year — and that work is already underway.
“There’s a little delay just due to workload, but we’re making every effort to move the project along,” said the county’s chief engineer, Bill Hillman.
According to Mr. Schneiderman, the delay will require allocating $4 million in construction funds for the project in Suffolk’s 2016 capital budget. If the county is at least able to start on the project next year, he said, funding would be secured for the following year as well.
“I’m going to try and get the money in 2016,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “This is an important public safety project.”
Traffic at the circle is often congested now and is only expected to get worse in the future, officials say.
The land swap approved by voters involved the exchange of a portion of a town park at the circle’s northwest edge for county property just west of the park.
The project has all the approvals it needs.
“The property we needed to acquire from Southampton Town is there. We just need the final design and we’re ready to go,” said Mr. Hillman.
The projected 2017 start is a little later than expected, he said.
The project is being designed by Nelson and Pope, the same engineering firm that’s working with Riverhead Town on its downtown Brownfields Opportunity Area grant. Part of that plan includes a recommendation to make Peconic Avenue, just north of the traffic circle, into a one-way northbound road.
“Our proposed roundabout works with the one-way on Peconic Avenue or without it,” Mr. Hillman said.
The DPW’s original plan called for a two-lane roundabout that eliminated one of the five legs leading into it, but that approach met with opposition from residents of Riverleigh Avenue (County Road 104), which would have been cut off from the circle.
Mr. Hillman said that while a four-leg roundabout would work better than the five-leg roundabout they are proceeding with, the end product is still an improvement.
“It’s still a good, strong project, but eliminating one of the legs would have been a stronger and better project,” Mr. Hillman said.