A $17 million Nassau County road project a year into construction in the Oceanside/Island Park area has some residents upset over its design and the lack of readily available public information on the project.
Legis. Denise Ford (D-Long Beach) said that when the county embarked on the Austin Boulevard construction project in 2010 at the request of area business owners and residents, a series of meetings and presentations was held for the public. An ongoing effort, including social media posts, about the proposed changes dates to 2011. She said Zoom meetings were held as recently as last year with businesses in the reconstruction area.
Ford acknowledged there was a lag in alerting residents that the project was scheduled to begin.
"With the pandemic I think we let the ball drop on how my office would usually alert the public," Ford said. "But I’m going to try to see if the Department of Public Works can help me lay out the rest of the plan as to why the project was commenced and what the result will be."
The project is reconstructing a 1.4-mile stretch of Austin Boulevard to improve pedestrian and vehicle safety, drainage and storm resiliency, and to create a safer and more sustainable corridor, county officials said.
Changes include a southbound lane reduction, reconfigured lane widths, raised and painted center medians, increased parking lane widths and new traffic signals.
Long Beach resident Jay Brick said reducing the southbound side from six lanes to four and increasing parking areas along the road’s edge is going to create traffic backups and slowdowns. He and several other residents said they did not receive official notices from the county or get any official meetings where their opinions could have been shared. Brick said he has filed a Freedom of Information request to get answers.
"We will not rest until we get those lanes rescinded," Brick said. "We want it to go back to the way it was."
Ford said it was always the plan to reduce the southbound lanes by two.
A yearlong traffic study, which included counting the number of cars that use the targeted study area, for the project was conducted in 2011 and was updated just before the pandemic, and the numbers and design still held up, Ford said.
"It was explained to us that Austin Boulevard was not wide enough for six traveling lanes, two parking lanes and a turning lane, so in order to make it safer they had to take one of the traveling lanes away," Ford said.
Because northbound lanes are an evacuation route, engineers didn’t want to touch them, Ford said.
She added that the state also had to sign off on the design of the project.
Ford said it’s "most assured" that there will be increased volume because of the reduced number of lanes, but it should be manageable.
"This is a project that residents and businesses have been after for a long time," Ford said. "They want something done for that road and we’re responding."
ROAD WORK AHEAD
A $17 million county road improvement project on Austin Boulevard in Island Park aims to create a safer and more sustainable corridor.
- Improvements include new traffic signals with protected left turn phases at select intersections, intelligent transportation systems including cameras to facilitate daily traffic flow and emergency evacuations.
- Pedestrian improvements include improved crosswalks and countdown timers at all signalized intersections.
- Existing drainage problems will be eliminated in the Barnum Island area with the construction of a separate drainage outfall for Long Beach Road runoff. Additional drainage improvements will be incorporated into the reconfigured intersection at Austin Boulevard and Vanderbilt Avenue/Broadway.
Total project cost: $17,437,439
Construction cost: $15,292,210
Construction Management cost: $2,145,229
Construction began in December 2020 and is anticipated to be completed by the second quarter of 2023.
Source: Nassau County executive's office