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Stay on the ball and avoid U.S. Open trouble spots

Just because thousands will be watching a little ball fall into a hole at Bethpage State Park doesn't mean you have to feel like you're stuck in one, too. With a little advance warning and a wary eye, even those Long Islanders living near the scene of this week's U.S. Open might be able to avoid big-time traffic jams and other major inconveniences, officials say. "It'll be noticeable, but we're trying to keep it so that the inconvenience isn't so much," said Farmingdale Village Mayor George Starkie about the commotion that could be generated by so many people passing through his municipality. Starkie is hoping to attract some of the golf crowd to local restaurants and businesses without clogging roads and upsetting residents. It won't be easy steering clear of the 45,000 visitors converging each day at Bethpage State Park. But the state Department of Transportation says nearby residents can minimize inconveniences by checking traffic cameras and the department's Web site, or calling the state's 511 traffic information hotline. The number of daily visitors to the Open, DOT officials point out, is much smaller than the 180,000 who traveled to the Memorial Day air show at Jones Beach. "Although it's a significant number of people and we want things to run smoothly, there is no reason for anyone to be stuck in traffic," said state DOT spokeswoman Eileen Peters. During peak morning rush hours, 1 million commuters are on the roadway in Nassau and Suffolk. Because many Open fans will arrive by rail or buses, she doesn't expect a major impact in the usual flow of automobiles, except directly near Bethpage State Park. Based on plans drawn up by state, county and local officials - along with the Long Island Rail Road, MTA and the U.S. Golf Association - here are some things to look out for while getting around Long Island during U.S. Open week.

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