Signs are posted on Route 347 near Route 111 in...

Signs are posted on Route 347 near Route 111 in Hauppauge, in advance of construction set to start Tuesday. (Sept. 13, 2010) Credit: James Carbone

As the first phase of work begins Tuesday on the long-awaited Route 347 project, business owners and commuters who take that road seem to be taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the lane closures that will start at the Route 347/454 split and end at Route 111 at the Hauppauge and Smithtown line.

"I guess time will tell," said Mina Panagatos, whose family owns Paradise Diner that is right at the split in Hauppauge. "It's supposed to be done during off-peak hours. If it was all day, that would be a different story."

John Curaba, a manager at Lacrosse Unlimited, which is on Route 347 close to Route 111, said the end product will be worth it. "The roads need work on Long Island," he said.

Starting Tuesday, drivers should expect single-lane closures during daytime but off-peak hours, officials said.

The first phase of the project covers about one mile, and will cost about $26.8 million. It is the first step in what the state Department of Transportation promises will be a dramatic transformation of the overburdened corridor into an improved "suburban greenway."

When completed, the project will see the refurbishing and modernization of about 15 miles of road, transforming it into a so-called "Green Route," the DOT said. The road, originally constructed in the 1950s as a rural farm delivery route, carries about 71,000 vehicles a day.

The first phase is scheduled to be completed in 2012, and the entire project by 2020.

The new road will not only add a lane of traffic in each direction but will include safety features, as well as seven new bus stops, a separate bike path, a shared-use pedestrian-bike path, high-visibility pedestrian crosswalks with countdown timers, a rain garden, solar lighting and, the DOT says, a reduction in traffic delays.

The plan for the project is known as "Parks to Ports and Harbors," as the project will tie together areas such as Blydenburgh County Park and Port Jefferson Harbor, officials said.

The speed limit on the new road will be lowered to 45 mph - though improved traffic flow should make for an easier, quicker commute, officials said.

To minimize the impact of construction, officials said, access to local businesses bordering the road will be maintained throughout the project and most construction activities that require travel lane closures will take place during the night.

However, officials said drivers can expect single-lane off-peak daytime closures westbound from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and eastbound from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition, single-lane closures on Brooksite Drive directly north and south of Route 347 will take place between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

On Route 111, lanes will be shifted directly north and south of Route 347.

Joe Martinico of Smithtown said he will avoid the area during construction.

"It'll be a disaster," he said as he pumped gas into his car at the Hess station at Routes 347 and 111, adding that even the 4 miles from his house to the mall will take too long.

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