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Bellone proposes rapid transit bus routes

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone unveils his "Connect

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone unveils his "Connect Long Island: A Vision for Our Future" economic plan which includes infrastructure investments on connecting existing and proposed developments by expanding transit service and reverse commuting. (June 26. 2012) Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone Tuesday called for initiatives including north-south rapid transit routes to connect research institutions with downtowns to create jobs for the region's young people.

"Our vision is to connect Long Island," said Bellone, a Democrat, addressing nearly 200 business leaders, local officials and staffers in Hauppauge. "You can't grow the economy in a sustainable fashion by adding more cars to the roads."

The county executive laid out a long-term vision to create rapid bus routes with dedicated lanes on Route 110, the Sagtikos Parkway and Nicolls Road.

Bellone drew lines on large maps to highlight the web of connections the new system could bring -- linking Long Island Rail Road's current east-west connections, and the double-track project between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma. He said a new rapid bus service could connect universities, research centers, downtowns, new job sites and affordable housing.

Bellone also called for "innovation zones" on public property, which would provide investors with tax breaks and expedited permitting. Among potential sites are the Brentwood, Selden and Riverhead campuses of Suffolk County Community College, federal property at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the county industrial hub at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton.

Bellone essentially outlined a support role for Suffolk to aid the towns, where major development projects including the Ronkonkoma Hub, Heartland and Wyandanch Rising are on the drawing boards. He said he also hopes to help research centers such as Stony Brook University and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to work with business to develop commercial products.

"I see our role as the great collaborator," Bellone said.

But Legis. Thomas Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) said all Bellone did was list existing projects. "Every speech I hear about the economy says the private sector is the engine of our growth," Cilmi said. "I didn't hear anything about the private sector or how the county is going to make things easier for business."

David Calone, chairman of Suffolk's Planning Commission, said Bellone's modest approach is partially a "reflection of the economic realities." But Calone said Bellone's initiative could make it easier for creative individuals to work together. "The greatest predictor of success is entrepreneurial density -- bringing together all people in an area inventing and creating," Calone said.

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