Plentiful public transportation options, including a network of shuttle buses and a temporary Long Island Rail Road station, should prevent traffic into and out of Southampton from becoming much worse than usual during this week’s U.S. Open golf tournament in Shinnecock Hills, organizers said.
Thomas Neely, transportation director for Southampton Town, predicts that up to 95 percent of the 30,000 golf fans expected to attend the tournament from Thursday through Sunday will use some form of public transportation, sparing the area’s typically congested arteries — County Road 39 and Montauk Highway — a significant increase in car volume.
“We’re cautioning people to expect some delays, because we think that’s appropriate. But the sky is not falling,” said Neely, who also helped put together a transportation plan for previous U.S. Open tournaments at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in 1995 and 2004. “The traffic never turned out to be as bad as people thought it was going to be.”
With no general parking options in or around Shinnecock Hills, most drivers — unless they’re actually playing in the tournament — will likely park at designated satellite lots at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach and then board shuttle buses to get to the tournament site.
United States Golf Association officials say they’ll have about 200 buses running continuously on a loop from 5:30 a.m. each day until one hour after play concludes. The bus trips are expected to take about 35 minutes each way, depending on traffic.
Also helping matters is the fact that County Road 39 has been widened from three lanes to five lanes since the U.S. Open was last in the town 14 years ago.
To further reduce potential congestion, portions of Tuckahoe Road will be closed throughout the tournament, and cars will not be allowed to stop, stand or park within an approximate three-quarter-mile radius around the tournament site, Neely said. Truck deliveries to the tournament must take place during overnight hours, he added.
“It’s all a bit of a carrot and a stick,” Neely said. “We are fairly confident things are going to go pretty much as normal. . . . Cautiously optimistic, I guess, is a good way to put it.”
For golf fans who prefer to avoid roadways altogether, the LIRR is providing service to and from the tournament via a temporary train station built by the USGA.
“If you want to get to the event on time, you should take the Long Island Rail Road,” LIRR president Phillip Eng said. “You should take advantage of that because the road here, we know, is very constrained. And we want to make sure that folks enjoy the event.”
The railroad is adding the Shinnecock Hills stop to regularly scheduled Montauk branch trains throughout the tournament and also adding some trains. The LIRR expects to carry up to 9,000 people a day to and from the U.S. Open.
“With that number, I don’t think traffic will have a huge impact,” said Reg Jones, USGA managing director of U.S. Open Championships. “We view the train as a really great option for people.”
Other transportation providers are also getting in on the expected demand for the tournament. Private coach bus company Hampton Jitney is offering service to and from Manhattan and also to and from points east. And designated pickup and drop-off sites for taxis, Uber vehicles and other ride-share services have been set up at the Stony Brook University campus in Southampton. Bike racks will also be available at the campus parking lot for fans cycling to the tournament.