A popular route to Fire Island could become more pedestrian friendly by the spring, Islip Town officials said.
Construction is to begin this fall on the Bay-Way Corridor Project, which will connect walkers and bikers from the Bay Shore Long Island Rail Road station, through the downtown and to Fire Island ferry terminals, officials said.
The plan for the Fire Island “gateway zone” — along a path now traveled by more than a million people a year — includes bike lanes and handicap-accessible sidewalks, town public works project supervisor Peter Kletchka said.
“The gateway zone is what we consider a no man’s land for vehicles and pedestrians,” Kletchka told the town board recently, citing lack of road markings have caused confusion for drivers and bicyclists on their way to the ferry terminal.
The $2.15 million project's start comes about four years after officials announced they were awarded about $1.6 million in a State Department of Transportation grant. The town will pay more than $500,000 for the work.
Town Councilman John Cochrane said it took years to find qualified bidders, conduct studies and coordinate with other agencies, including the LIRR. Officials have tweaked the plan in that time, including swapping a taxi stand for an Uber and Lyft waiting area, Cochrane said, noting that ride-sharing services were not as popular in 2014.
“We want to finish everything by Memorial Day because that’s the kickoff" for the summer season," Cochrane said. “It’s going to be a great project for Bay Shore.”
Ferry drop-off zones and a new traffic circle near dockside restaurants are expected to decrease vehicle congestion, officials said. Ramps will be installed at the edge of sidewalks to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and crosswalks will be added.
Drainage improvements on the waterfront road will be especially important, Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter said at a May town board meeting. Flooding has prevented people from traveling down the street, she said, adding that emergency responders were called to one of the dockside restaurants in March “because of panic” around high water levels.
The avenue’s aesthetic will match the downtown’s, with officials installing a brick strip on the sidewalk, ornamental streetlights and new trees, Kletchka said.
Tim Mooney, president of Fire Island Ferries, Inc., said that while he has not heard his customers complain about the path to the ferry terminals — especially because the sidewalks are “in pretty good shape” — the improvements will make for a “nicer entrance” to Fire Island.
“That’s a win for everybody,” Mooney said, adding town officials have included businesses on the path in the planning process.
Kletchka said he expects to issue bids for construction soon, without providing an estimated start date, and cited that the project is in the final phase of grant review.