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Sagtikos Parkway future should be clearer by early next year, DOT says

The Sagtikos Parkway is seen from the overpass

The Sagtikos Parkway is seen from the overpass on Crooked Hill Road in Brentwood on Tuesday, Sept 15, 2015. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The future of the Sagtikos State Parkway -- built in the 1950s and which state officials say is due for an overhaul -- should be clearer by the end of this year, or early next year.

But what isn't clear is whether the Sagtikos, or Sag, an 11-mile-long major north-south thoroughfare in Suffolk County, will remain two lanes or expand to three, get new bicycle and pedestrian paths, or retain its classic parkway look.

That will depend partly on what the public wants, State Department of Transportation officials say.

DOT held two public information sessions attended by about 100 people earlier this year, one in Deer Park and one in Kings Park, to get public ideas for a study on the future of the parkway.

The study, including the public meetings, is funded with $3.4 million from the state, which has put an additional $11 million for an engineering study into its five-year plan.

There has been no estimate put on total construction costs.

About 50 people, most of them Suffolk residents who attended the April meetings, have submitted their thoughts to DOT and were evenly split on whether to add lanes to the Sag.

Some voiced concern that the state was thinking of widening the highway to accommodate the proposed $4 billion Heartland mega-project in Brentwood.

Proposed by developer Jerry Wolkoff, the project would create residential and retail space on part of the sprawling former Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center in Brentwood, but it is still awaiting approval from the Town of Islip.

"Is the Heartland Development the reason for all this hustle & bustle and concern?" Gail Hessel, 77, of Kings Park wrote. "Are they the ones leading this drive?"

Roland Allnach of Kings Park complained about rush-hour congestion on the parkway and said he objected to using public tax dollars to address traffic issues created by Heartland, "a private development project."

The Sag, one road with two names, begins at the Southern State in West Islip and runs north to the Northern State Parkway, where it links to the Sunken Meadow State Parkway.

The Sunken Meadow runs north to Route 25A, Fort Salonga Road in Kings Park.

The Sag handles about 90,000 vehicles per day and Sunken Meadow handles 65,000, according to state figures. DOT documents do not indicate what impact its final decision would have on traffic volume.

Virginia Carr, also of Kings Park, said she wanted the road widened and was concerned about "the impact of the Heartland site in what is already a dense residential and commercial property."

While state officials said their aim is not to accommodate the Heartland megaproject, it will factor into their final decision, for which they have not given a timetable.

"NYSDOT expects to provide preliminary short and long-term transportation improvement recommendations for the Sagtikos/Sunken Meadow Corridor at the second set of public meetings later this year/early next year," the agency said in a statement last month. The dates and locations of the meetings have not been disclosed.

"Public input and comments obtained at these meetings will help shape the study's final recommendations. Projected traffic generated by the proposed Heartland Town Square project is being considered in NYSDOT's recommendations for long-term alternatives," the statement said.

If the state expected a consensus in the responses, it did not get one.

Eight people said the roadway should be widened; nine either said explicitly it should not be widened, or said in more general terms that it is fine as it is. Most planning and political leaders favor a widening of the roadway, either to accommodate Heartland or to provide better north-south access on the Island.

"I personally think, for the future of Long Island, that it needs to be expanded, no matter what. My sense is that it needs to be expanded, independent of the Heartland project," John Cameron, an engineer who chairs the Long Island Regional Planning Council, said in a recent interview.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone also favors widening the parkway.

The one suggestion offered by most people who responded to DOT, 18 of the responses, was to do something about the access and exit ramps, particularly at Pine Aire Drive, an east-west road that crossed the north-south Sagtikos in Bay Shore.

Some responses were submitted jointly by couples, and some couples submitted separate suggestions, making an exact count of each suggestion difficult to pin down.

About 14 people said they would like to see bicycle paths or walking trails along the renovated parkway.

"My dream: A bike & walking lane North and South from Jericho Turnpike to Sunken Meadow State Park & Route 25A," wrote Jack Hessel of Kings Park.

About SagtikosThe Sagtikos State Parkway begins at the Southern State in West Islip and runs north to the Northern State Parkway, where it runs into the Sunken Meadow State Parkway. The Sunken Meadow runs north to Route 25A, Fort Salonga Road in King Park.

Work on the Sagtikos began in 1950 and finished in 1953, state documents show. Sunken Meadow was built between 1954 and 1957. Both were designated National Historic Parkways in 2012.

The route is 11 miles long. It is two lanes wide in both directions and is crossed by 21 bridges. It begins in the Town of Islip, ends in the Town of Smithtown and cuts through or abuts several communities.

The Sagtikos handles about 90,000 vehicles per day and Sunken Meadow handles 65,000, according to state figures.


About Heartland

The $4 billion Heartland project proposed by developer Jerry Wolkoff would create 9,000 apartments, 1 million square feet of retail and 3 million square feet of office space during the next three decades on 450 acres of land formerly part of Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center in Brentwood.--

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