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Towns may team up on grant to add trains, buses on North Fork

In Southold Town's new transportation initiative, buses in

In Southold Town's new transportation initiative, buses in Mattituck and Greenport would make stops at farm stands, galleries, the LIRR train station, seen here on July 25, 2016, and other local sites. Credit: Randee Daddona

Officials in Riverhead and Southold may join forces to vie for funding through a multimillion-dollar federal grant program that would be used to bring additional trains and buses to the North Fork and potentially ease the area’s traffic problems.

Dawn Thomas, interim community development administrator for Riverhead’s Community Development Department, said Riverhead and Southold Town officials have recently held preliminary discussions about possibly collaborating in 2018 for a round of grant funding through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, program.

Thomas said the end goal is to create a plan that would bring more “scoot” trains, or shorter rail cars, between Riverhead and Greenport, with the potential to bring a connecting train between Ronkonkoma and Riverhead. Bus loops would also be set up at those train stops that could take riders to wineries, pumpkin farms and other tourist-friendly locations.

The competitive TIGER program — which has $500 million in total funding though 2020 — provides grants of $5 million to $25 million to communities that propose infrastructure projects that would have “a significant impact” on a region, a metropolitan area or the nation. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Officials in Southold familiar with the proposal confirmed that Riverhead has been in contact about partnering up. But officials in both towns said the proposal is still in the preliminary stages and that estimates for total costs for the project proposal are still pending.

Southold started a transportation initiative in September with trial routes of trolley cars that began running in Mattituck and Greenport with stops at farmstands, galleries, the LIRR station and other local shops and sites.

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