Suffolk County and East End legislators on Tuesday broke ground on a $5 million construction project that will redesign a key traffic circle in Riverside to improve vehicle flow and spur economic development in the hamlet.
The improvements at the 80-year-old Riverside traffic circle will expand the current one-lane circle to a two-lane modern roundabout, officials said. As part of the project, the county’s Department of Public Works will install a new storm sewer system to address chronic flooding problems and treat storm water before it goes into the Peconic River.
Flanked by legislators, community leaders and advocates near the traffic circle the intersection of Riverleigh Avenue, Lake Avenue and County Road 104, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called the project an important step toward addressing traffic and water quality issues for Riverside residents.
The traffic circle is used by thousands of daily commuters, particularly in the summer, and serves as a key gateway to communities on the North and South forks. It’s not made to handle that volume of traffic, officials said.
“This is a big project. We’re not just building another road, we’re building toward our future and the future of this community,” said Bellone.
Suffolk County Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) said the road improvements were “critical” for the “vitality of this important neighborhood.”
“Everybody’s been waiting for this,” Fleming said.
Construction is to start this week, county officials said. The project, which will have eight separate building phases, is scheduled to be completed in December 2018. Construction will take place during the day with normal traffic flow. During the evening, there will be limited lane closures between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Riverside resident Marty Stromsten, 81, called traffic in the area “absolutely insane”, especially during summer. “Hopefully, this will make it so that the traffic will move smoother through the circle,” he said.
Pauline Sandmann, 85, also of Riverside, said the traffic circle improvements went hand-in-hand with the planned revitalization of the hamlet. The Southampton Town Board in December 2015 approved a rezoning plan to revitalize the hamlet, which has has been hit with crime as well as deteriorating homes and buildings for decades. The plan was projected to triple the hamlet’s housing units to 2,267 from 788 while creating 133,517 square feet of retail space and 62,000 square feet of professional and medical offices.
“It’s a necessary thing,” Sandmann said of the roadway improvement, citing traffic through the area getting worse over the years. “We’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be rough driving through here [during the construction], but who cares?”