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Candidates for Suffolk exec differ on East End rail issue

Suffolk County executive candidates Angie Carpenter and Steve

Suffolk County executive candidates Angie Carpenter and Steve Bellone before their debate in Woodbury (Sept. 15, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

Standing at the Southampton railroad station Tuesday morning just after a black-and-white Hampton Luxury Liner bus pulled out, state Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) joked to Democratic County Executive candidate Steve Bellone that, if he wanted to take a nap, he would be perfectly safe sleeping on the tracks.

After the 6:22 a.m. leaves for Penn Station, there are only two other westbound trains while the sun is up — the 12:23 p.m. and the 3:34 p.m. The two other westbound daily trains are for night owls — the 11:30 p.m. and the 1:42 a.m.

That would change under a proposal Bellone endorsed Tuesday before a small crowd of Southampton officials and public transportation advocates —  to create an independent Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority.

Having a separate agency provide East End rail service has long been a goal of local planners.

Thiele said it would take three or four years to build the rail spurs needed to operate a beefed-up service, and — with the rail cars and engines —  such a project would cost more than $100 million.

Bellone said limited roads and no land to build new ones means that expanding public transportation on the East End is the only way to deal with population increases and to keep the local economies growing.

His opponent, Angie Carpenter, condemned the proposal.

“Steve Bellone doesn’t get it,” she said in a prepared statement. “A new authority means bigger government and higher taxes. As county executive, I will work within the current framework to create transportation solutions for the East End.”

Photo: Suffolk County executive candidates Steve Bellone and Angie Carpenter before a debate this past month.

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