Bellone proposes study of bus rapid transit system

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The administration of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is seeking proposals to study a bus rapid transit system to ease traffic, speed commuting and spur economic development across the county.

The search for an outside consultant, who would be paid up to $300,000, is the first concrete step toward implementing Bellone's "Connect Long Island" initiative, first proposed in June. Bellone wants to create a rapid transit bus system along Suffolk's major north-south corridors including Route 110, Sagtikos Parkway and Nicolls Road. The routes would link with existing east-west railways to provide access to universities, new job sites and affordable housing.

The request for proposals, issued last week, calls for the consultant to identify 10 potential corridors for rapid transit and develop an implementation plan "from conception through construction." The contract will be funded by a grant from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, a regional transportation planning group.

The rapid transit system would operate in separate, dedicated rights of way during peak periods. Buses would get priority at traffic signals to speed up service similar to rail transit.

Bellone said the study is "critical" to "developing a detailed plan of attack that will ensure quality of life . . . in Suffolk for our children and grandchildren."

Legislative Minority Leader John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) said Suffolk would be better off improving routing and schedules for its existing $22-million-a-year bus system. "It's a solution in search of a problem," Kennedy said of the rapid bus plan.

"The notion that Suffolk County should not plan for its future is absurd," Bellone said. "This is not a partisan issue, this is about developing a plan to make sure we have the infrastructure to create jobs and a sustainable future for Suffolk County."

Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said he didn't object to Bellone's study, but noted the county did a comprehensive review of bus routes in 2008. Schneiderman said the top priority should be to extend Sunday service countywide. Currently, there is Sunday service on the East End in the summer.

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