Long Island drivers put up with some of the most congested intersections in the state, according to a new study.
Of more than 18,000 intersections in New York analyzed during one week last fall, five that had some of the worst delays were in Nassau County, according to the report by INRIX, a Kirkland, Washington, transportation analytics firm.
The intersection of Long Beach Boulevard and East Park Avenue in Long Beach had the most daily hours of delay. Some 95,600 cars passed through the intersection each day on average during the week studied, and together motorists spent more than 1,000 hours a day waiting for the light to change, according to estimates in the report.
Nassau officials questioned the findings of the study and said improvements are in the works at that intersection and others in the area. But in a place as dependent on cars as Long Island, traffic experts said there’s only so much that can be done to speed up the flow of millions of cars.
"In some places, there are no simple fixes," said Rick Schuman, the report’s author. "There’s just too much traffic."
The study is based on GPS data showing the movement of vehicles through more than 210,000 intersections with traffic lights nationwide during a week in early October. Those signals account for about two-thirds of all traffic lights in the country, said Schuman, a vice president at the company.
The firm analyzed 1,354 signals in Nassau and 347 in Suffolk. Nassau manages 1,700 signals, while Suffolk operates fewer than 1,000, county officials said. The state transportation department manages another 1,250 on Long Island, a spokesman said.
The five particularly slow Nassau intersections were in Greenvale, Roslyn Estates, Valley Stream, Levittown and Long Beach. At those crossings, drivers had less than a one-in-three chance of arriving on a green signal, and spent on average 39 to 55 seconds waiting for one.
Suffolk’s signals also were problematic, each averaging an estimated 126 daily hours of delay.
INRIX was not paid to complete the study, which Schuman said the firm undertook to further the transportation industry's understanding of traffic signal performance. He noted that unusual circumstances during the week analyzed — like construction projects or major accidents — could have temporarily increased delays. He also said there may be slower intersections on Long Island not included in the report. But those highlighted in Nassau and Suffolk nevertheless performed worse than state and national averages.
"If you're anywhere near the top of this list, you've got some delay," he said.
Nassau traffic officials argued the study extrapolates from limited data. The county also defended the performance of the Long Beach intersection in question, whose signals it operates.
Joe Pecora, Nassau’s deputy commissioner for public works, noted INRIX found the average delay per vehicle at the crossing was lower than others on the list, indicating its large cumulative delays simply reflect the high volume of traffic moving though the crossing.
He said the intersection is complex, given 14 lanes converge there and that Long Beach Boulevard is one of only three roads that provide access to the barrier island.
"There’s delay there, but I do think it’s probably functioning as well as it could," he said.
Nevertheless, plans are in the works to install new signal equipment at the intersection, including cables that will enable traffic lights in the area to coordinate timing, he said.
Design on the roughly $5.9 million project began recently, with construction estimated to wrap up in 2023.
Beyond the delays, Long Beach officials and residents said there are other issues at the crossing.
Long Beach Police Commissioner Ron Walsh said the intersection is a magnet for collisions, and the department is stepping up traffic enforcement there.
"It is a struggle to keep everybody safe there because people violate the law and then they crash," he said.
There were 134 crashes at the intersection last year, none fatal.
The intersection is especially harrowing for pedestrians, said James Kirklin, a 40-year resident.
"It’s like a suicide crossing," he said. "I feel safer in my car than I do on the street."
In light of such issues, Walsh said he would take a slow intersection if it meant a safer one.
"If delay means safe, then I’m all for delay," he said.
NEW YORK INTERSECTIONS WITH GREATEST DELAYS
These are the New York intersections with the worst traffic delays, according to INRIX’s study. The firm analyzed more than 18,000 intersections in New York over one week in October 2020. These intersections had the greatest estimated daily hours of delay. The list also shows estimated average daily traffic volume.
- Atlantic Ave. & 4th Ave., Kings: 76,331 vehicles, 1,086 hours of delay
- Long Beach Blvd. & E. Park Ave., Nassau: 95,596 vehicles, 1,046 hours
- Pennsylvania Ave. & Atlantic Ave., Kings: 67,066 vehicles, 979 hours
- Tillary St. & Flatbush Ave. Extension, Kings: 74,298 vehicles, 938 hours
- N. Hempstead Tpke. & Glen Cove Rd., Nassau: 60,872 vehicles, 926 hours
- Major Deegan Expwy. & E. 138th St., Bronx: 50,511 vehicles, 821 hours
- Thomson Ave. & Van Dam St., Queens: 64,431 vehicles, 789 hours
- Searingtown Rd. & Northern Blvd., Nassau: 49,411 vehicles, 756 hours
- W. Sunrise Hwy. & S. Central Ave., Nassau: 55,405 vehicles, 750 hours
- N. Wantagh Ave. & Hempstead Tpke., Nassau: 59,148 vehicles, 748 hours