A roadway project in Suffolk County that is expected to cost at least $71 million is moving closer to a start date, as the state Department of Transportation reviews potential bids for a contract.
The 2-mile project is part of the Route 347 corridor work that broke ground in 2010 and aims to reconstruct and widen 15 miles of roadway. The project starts at Route 454 in Smithtown, will run through Islip and Brookhaven and ends near Port Jefferson Station.
Less than five of the 15 miles of roadway, which is expected to ease traffic congestion through the major choke points, have been rebuilt. The state DOT has spent $160 million in construction costs to date on the project.
"It’s finally happening. This is a project that has been on the drawing board since the 1970s," said Marc Herbst, executive director of the Long Island Contractors' Association, a construction worker lobbying group.
Herbst and other business groups previously advocated for additional state money to support the project, which had stopped after funding ran out in December 2017.
"It’s going to be straightening out lane flows and also extending bike paths, while making other safety and congestion improvements," Herbst said.
Route 347 was built in the 1960s, and 48,000 motorists used it daily back then. About 71,000 motorists use the road daily today, according to the state DOT.
Stephen Canzoneri, a spokesperson for the state DOT, said the bid opening for the State Route 347 Safety, Mobility, and Environmental Improvement Project started on Oct. 7.
"Bid documents are currently under review before the contract can be awarded and construction can begin between Gibbs Pond Road and Hallock Road," Canzoneri said, declining further comment.
The Gibbs Pond Road-to-Hallock Road reconstruction represents the sixth stage of a nine-phase project, according to a timeline of the project provided by Herbst.
The state DOT has 45 days to review the bids, and the lowest, most responsible bidder is expected to win the award, according to state guidelines.
Herbst said once a bidder is selected, there should be shovels in the ground by spring 2022. This next leg of development aims to add features such as a continuous third travel lane in each direction and a separate shared-use path. There are also plans to improve intersections and address stormwater runoff.
State Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James), who has been a strong proponent of the project, said prior work already has eased traffic. The project is in his district.
"From the beginning of project, all that westbound roadway made a huge, huge difference for our traffic, and I drive it all the time. This is also going to be a total improvement," Mattera said.