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Southampton revitalization may get boost

Southampton Town's ambitious plan to revitalize the Riverside / Flanders area may get a boost from Suffolk County with early talk of a newly constructed road and traffic improvements to the nearby traffic circle.

Bill Hillman, Suffolk County Public Works' chief engineer, presented a plan at a town board work session last week that would alter the traffic circle that leads into and out of Riverleigh and Lake avenues, County Road 94, where the county jail and courthouses are, State Route 24 and Peconic Avenue.

The plan, which Hillman cautioned has not gone beyond discussions, would include a new "main street" to run through an area that is now vacant and privately owned. Acting Town Planner Freda Eisenberg said the town has been in contact with the owner, but no talks have begun.

There is also the potential effect on a small number of nearby houses. Hillman suggests that the town could consider changing the properties' zoning to industrial or business, with the owners' consent, which would make them more salable and valuable along a new main road.

Hillman reminded the board that there is no funding now for the project other than $600,000 the county provided for the study.

Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming said she is not sure there is broad consensus to fix the traffic circle, but traffic analysis shows it has an "F" grade based on congestion during peak times, particularly west on Route 24 and Peconic Avenue, which leads into downtown Riverhead's Main Street.

The newly envisioned traffic circle would include two lanes, much like the recently constructed road at County Route 58, and lose one leg -- either Riverleigh or Lake avenue.

While the traffic circle is close to Riverhead's Main Street, it is in the Town of Southampton.

The town has been working toward revitalizing the area to the east of the circle, known as the Flanders / Riverside area, with an improved Riverside downtown, an industrial area to boost job growth and economic health, and a marine recreational area along the Peconic River.

Suffolk Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who attended the work session, said that the new project, if it is approved, should be linked to a new sewer system to create an economically vibrant downtown.

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