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Sagtikos widening study added to transportation plan

A $3.4-million study on widening the Sagtikos Parkway has been added to next year's state's transportation plan, a move that could ease the way for the Heartland Town Square project, officials said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the county had fought for the study to be included on the plan. It appeared on an earlier version but was superseded by other projects. "If we had not taken this step, planning for expansion of the Sagtikos would have been delayed a further four years," he said.

Local officials have said expanding the Sagtikos is necessary to address concerns about anticipated traffic congestion the enormous project could bring. Heartland, in Brentwood, envisages around 9,000 rental apartments, plus office space, retail and industrial components.

The study will be added to the five-year Transportation Improvement Program, a list of projects from which the state makes its funding priorities. Projects on the list are also eligible for federal funding.

In a separate development, Suffolk lawmakers recently approved spending $490,000 for a study of a Commack Road bypass, also aimed at alleviating Heartland traffic, DPW Commissioner Gil Anderson confirmed.

Tuesday, Bellone said the county fought for the Sagtikos study to be restored to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council's plan because it viewed Heartland as vital to the region's economic future.

"We see this project as critical for the economic growth of our region," Bellone said.

He noted the county's "Connect Long Island" economic development strategy also stipulated that expansion of the Sagtikos should include a north-south bus rapid transit space and a hiking-biking trail to connect Heartland and Suffolk Community College to Kings Park's downtown, and to Sunken Meadow and Nissequogue River state parks.

The state plan indicates $11 million could fund a preliminary design phase of the expansion after fiscal year 2015.

In another action that could impact Heartland, Islip's Industrial Development Agency Tuesday voted to require that projects getting tax relief from the town employ local labor and materials. Some large projects will be required to either pay union wages or have a project labor agreement with unions.

Gerry Wolkoff, Heartland developer, has said he is opposed to any such agreement.

Long Island Federation of Labor president John Durso welcomed the move. "It certainly looks like it will have a positive effect upon everything we're trying to do in Islip Town and I'm certainly sure it's going to have a positive effect on Heartland."

Islip Supervisor Tom Croci said the requirement was not created with any one project in mind. Wolkoff remains in talks with the town to renew a payment in lieu of taxes deal.

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