Should the road connecting downtown Riverhead to the nearby traffic circle become a one-way street?
A proposal to turn Peconic Avenue into a northbound-only roadway has been debated for years and a majority of the Riverhead Town Board members support it, but some Southampton Town Board members are questioning the plan and say it could interfere with ongoing plans to revitalize Riverside, a neighboring hamlet that has been plagued with crime and blight.
Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said the Suffolk County Department of Public Works is designing the traffic circle’s expansion to reflect Peconic Avenue as a two-way street.
The project includes expanding the traffic circle, which is in Southampton Town, into a two-lane roundabout. Construction is scheduled to begin next year, Mr. Schneiderman said.
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While he said the project could be revised and include Peconic Avenue as a one-way street, he said he has doubts about such a change and whether it would help traffic flow. He says the one-way plan would also divert southbound traffic to residential streets like Riverside Drive.
The ongoing Brownfield Opportunities Area study of the downtown area suggests making Peconic Avenue a north-only road and creating a separate southbound lane on the western portion of the street for use by emergency vehicles.
The one-way proposal aims to alleviate gridlock in the heart of downtown near the Peconic Avenue-Route 25-Roanoke Avenue intersection.
However, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said she believes a two-way street will be “the better solution for traffic and pedestrian flow.”
Southampton Councilman Brad Bender added that the town has no desire to turn Peconic Avenue into a one-way street, with traffic solely running out of Riverside.
“It would be a bigger problem overall if it’s one-way,” he said. “When we develop the Riverside corridor, we want people to stop. We don’t want this to turn into a big drive-by.”
Southampton Councilwoman Christine Scalera agreed that maintaining Peconic Avenue as it is will help with revitalization efforts.
“The facilitation of two-way traffic both for the redevelopment in Riverside and in existing or new development in Riverhead benefits both downtowns,” she said.
Ms. Scalera said the issue was discussed last week at a meeting of town, county and state officials, at which Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone agreed that Peconic Avenue should remain two-way.
Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she was at that meeting last Tuesday and confirmed the county’s support for leaving the road’s traffic pattern as-is.
Mr. Bellone’s representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.
Ms. Giglio added she’s concerned southbound traffic will be diverted onto residential streets if Peconic Avenue is changed.
Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said in an interview Monday that he was unaware of any opposition to the plan to make Peconic Avenue one-way, which he supports.
“We need to solve the problems of Riverhead with that intersection in a way so that we won’t have to condemn buildings,” he said. “This is one of the least costly options to correct some of our problems.”
Riverhead councilmen Jim Wooten and John Dunleavy also support the one-way plan.
“That is a very treacherous intersection,” Mr. Wooten said, adding that he believes Roanoke Avenue should also become a one-way, north-only street — at least up to Railroad Avenue.
“We have to do something there,” Mr. Dunleavy said, adding he supports the one-way proposal for Peconic Avenue as long as the separate southbound lane is made available for emergency vehicles.
Mr. Wooten said he believes that if Riverside does become a tourist destination, people will visit the area regardless of Peconic Avenue’s direction.
Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, said his group hasn’t taken any formal position on Peconic Avenue’s future, although he said many members have expressed opposition to the change and expressed doubt that making it one-way street will help ease traffic.
“Only a few have expressed support,” he said, noting that he is among them.
Mr. Taldone said he believes a one-way street would allow wider sidewalks and make it easier for pedestrians to cross the street.
To date, Riverhead has not formally adopted any of the recommendations in the BOA study, so there is no official call yet to make Peconic Avenue one-way northbound.
Peconic and Roanoke avenues are both county roads, while Routes 25 and 24 are state roads, so those entities would be involved in making the final decision on the one-way proposal for Peconic Avenue.
Photo caption: Barbaraellen Koch file