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Officials call for North Fork traffic summit to address congestion

Years of increased traffic have led to jammed roads and parking issues in communities including Greenport, Riverhead and Shelter Island.

For years, the rise in traffic on the North Fork has been a problem communities there have struggled to solve on their own. Now, officials in one community are calling for a joint effort to find solutions together.

Southold town officials want to gather administrators in Greenport, Riverhead and Shelter Island during the early months of 2018 for a North Fork-wide towns summit to discuss solutions to the congestion and downtown parking issues.

“There would be very little lost to get people together and talk about these issues, but a firsthand discussion would be imperative,” Southold Deputy Supervisor William Ruland, who suggested the meeting, told the Southold Town Board at its Dec. 5 work session.

In Southold, the town board commissioned a preliminary traffic study, released earlier this month, listing traffic-calming strategies in the vicinity of State Route 25 and Love Lane in Mattituck, long cited as heavily congested areas. In Greenport, village officials are mulling a proposal to create parking stickers for the downtown area that would give residents who live there preference, especially in the summer, when spaces are limited.

Southold Town Councilman Robert Ghosio also was in favor of meeting with officials from all North Fork communities, noting that traffic problems in the region were a “major topic of discussion” that he heard during the recent election cycle.

“We both want answers, and this is a good start,” Ghosio said.

Councilman Tim Hubbard, Riverhead Town Board’s liaison to the its Parking Advisory Committee, said last week that he would also be open to the idea. Hubbard pointed to previous trial runs in Riverhead for trolley service loops aimed at reducing traffic and encouraging tourism, and said he would be interested in North Fork communities collaborating to create more such loops.

“It’s a great idea to put our heads together and see what we can come up with,” he said.

Riverhead Supervisor-elect Laura Jens-Smith said last week that she would welcome the opportunity to meet with others to discuss traffic solutions.

“We all experience increased traffic congestion during different times of the year, and it’s a situation that we need to address together,” she said.

Shelter Island Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty said no one had reached out to him yet about participating in a traffic summit, but that he would have to know more about what was intended from the summit before deciding whether to take part.

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