Hoping to improve vehicle flow during peak hours, both the town and village of Southampton this month launched traffic pilot programs at busy intersections.
The separate programs include the temporary addition of blinking lights and changes to turning regulations.
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said the program launched by his municipality on Monday is a test of the town’s ability to reduce morning commute times without negatively impacting side streets in Southampton, Hampton Bays and Water Mill between 5:30 and 9:30 a.m.
The supervisor said the town is counting vehicles and monitoring traffic flow at six intersections before, during and after the pilot program ending on Friday. The study includes chokepoints along both County Road 39 and Montauk Highway.
“We’re trying to test this idea in the mornings to see if we can get the traffic flowing better by blinking lights,” he told residents at a public hearing on Oct. 11.
He said they’ll use the data gained, including the cost of deploying police officers and highway workers to the intersections, to see if the program would be worth revisiting. Schneiderman said the pilot will cost the town about $80,000, including one-time costs for signage and for an outside agency to count traffic over a three-week period. He estimated that if the town were to repeat the program in the spring it would cost closer to $50,000 per week.
Schneiderman told Newsday there is a concern that traffic has a negative impact on the Hamptons economy, but a cost-benefit analysis would have to be conducted to make certain these types of traffic programs make a difference.
“If we’re only taking 10 minutes off commute times, is it worth this type of investment?” the supervisor questioned.
The town would likely seek funding from Suffolk County if it were to introduce a longer-range program, Schneiderman said.
The following intersections are affected this week: Tuckahoe Road at both County Road 39 and Montauk Highway near the Stony Brook Southampton campus; Magee Street at County Road 39 in Southampton; and the Montauk Highway intersections at Canoe Place Road in Hampton Bays, St. Andrews Road in Southampton and Station Road in Water Mill.
At the public hearing, Rachel Verno of the Water Mill Citizens Advisory Committee questioned the timing of the five-day pilot program, saying it would make more sense to study traffic flow during peak summer months in the Hamptons.
“We all know that if a developer came up with a traffic study for [October] you would tell them to come back in July or August,” Verno told the town board.
Schneiderman said he wouldn’t want to utilize resources for an initial test case at the “highest point” of the year.
“There is still plenty of traffic,” he said of October mornings at these intersections.
Southampton Village launched its pilot program on Oct. 3. Mayor Jesse Warren said the goal is to improve traffic flow on Hill Street while reducing traffic volume on surrounding roads.
The village banned left-hand turns onto Hill Street from two intersections and a right-hand turn at another from 3 to 7 p.m. on weekdays.
Residents at a village hearing Oct. 13 reported mostly positive feedback on the program and trustees agreed to extend it beyond the initially planned two-week period.
The village board may vote to keep the regulations in place even longer at its meeting Friday.
Inside the program
- Southampton Town's traffic pilot program is in effect from 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. through Friday.
- The lights during morning commute this week are blinking yellow for west-east traffic at these intersections, where motorists are only allowed to continue straight or make right-hand turns at four of the intersections. Northbound and southbound traffic is mostly limited to just right-hand turns. Left turns will be permitted only with police assistance at the Tuckahoe and Station road intersections at Montauk Highway.
- The town has also altered traffic regulations on Shrubland Road to improve traffic flow to Tuckahoe School.