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State proposes changes to LIE exit to ease Crooked Hill Road traffic

Cars travel on Crooked Hill Road in Brentwood

Cars travel on Crooked Hill Road in Brentwood just south of the Long Island Expressway Friday. Credit: James Carbone

New York State transportation officials have proposed changes to Long Island Expressway Exit 53 and surrounding roads to directly link the highway and Crooked Hill Road and improve traffic flow in Brentwood.

The work would simplify what can be a mazelike route for the 58,000 drivers daily who take Crooked Hill Road and surrounding streets to destinations like Crooked Hill Commons and Commack South Shopping Center, both in Smithtown north of the LIE, or Suffolk County Community College’s Grant Campus to the south, in Islip. It would also ease travel to and from the massive Heartland Town Square development proposed for land once part of the Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center. 

A state DOT spokesman said it was "premature" to discuss the estimated cost of the project, which is subject to Federal Highway Administration review. The department's tentative schedule calls for construction to start summer 2020 and finish 2022. 

People who live and work in the area said they welcomed changes to routes that can confound even seasoned drivers. To reach Crooked Hill Road from the LIE westbound, for example, is now a roughly two-mile, multiturn journey via Motor Parkway, Wicks Road and College Road or Expressway Drive North, Commack Road and Expressway Drive South. 

“It’s a very circuitous route,” said Drew Biondo, a spokesman for the college, whose Crooked Hill Road postal address can lead unsuspecting drivers past closer entrances on a longer than necessary trip from the expressway. Even he sometimes gets confused, he said: “Traveling on the Sagtikos or LIE I’ve ended up in the Psych Center, which is a warren of roads that basically lead to nowhere.” The improvements would be a “boon” to the college and visitors who may be unfamiliar with the area, such as the high school track teams who compete at the college’s athletic complex every winter, he said. 

Marilyn Gutierrez, a secretary who lives near Wicks Road and attended a state DOT open house on the project earlier this month at North Middle School, said area traffic was “frustrating” and “crazy,” especially in peak afternoon hours when traffic flows to and from local schools, the college and residential subdivisions west of Pilgrim. 

Some who attended said they wanted to ensure that any changes would take into account pedestrian safety on surface streets. 

“No one’s to blame,” said Brian Mahoney, a local government employee. “They didn’t anticipate when they designed the roads Lowe's, Costco, ShopRite or even Sloan Kettering,” referring to Commack businesses that draw customers from outside the area. Without a fix, he warned, traffic congestion would discourage newcomers. “No one’s going to want to invest and open a business here,” he said. 

Developer Jerry Wolkoff, who plans to build 9,000 Heartland apartments as well as commercial and office space in the area, conceded in an interview that his tenants would add to the congestion, but not nearly as much as some might fear. It will take time to reach full occupancy, he said, and “we will eliminate a lot of traffic by having development that’s not dependent on a car," with residents patronizing on-site shops and using the Long Island Rail Road's Deer Park station.

Planned features

  • New off-ramps from eastbound and westbound LIE to Crooked Hill Road
  • New on-ramp from the road to LIE eastbound.
  • Existing ramps would be reconfigured and new traffic signals would be installed at the Crooked Hill Road exit ramps.

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