Long Island's highways need more and better rest stops. The roads are woefully underserved compared with highways in other states. And the area between Exits 51 and 52 on the eastbound Long Island Expressway in Dix Hills might be a good place for a full rest area. Traffic is heavy, it's central to the Island and a pull-off "text stop" already exists there.
But the state Department of Transportation erred in trying to expand that stop without community input or notice. That shows ignorance about Long Island and irresponsibility toward the community.
The DOT planned to add parking for 200 cars and four buses, and a 9,000-square-foot building for a Taste of New York store and other amenities. Now the agency has suspended the upgrade, and will probably have an even harder job getting community buy-in if it tries again. It's difficult to persuade Long Island communities to allow anything new even when every i is dotted and every t is crossed -- but attempt it with no notice or warning, and you've just bought yourself a war.
An expansion of the rest stop was publicly discussed and rejected in 2006, which makes trying a similar move in secrecy now doubly sneaky. And the fact that a Taste of New York store was already planned for Exit 67 (but was apparently kiboshed in favor of the Huntington location) has people shaking their heads.
But some local officials are still willing to entertain the idea for Dix Hills, and they object only to the callous route the state took. Others say they think Exit 49 could work. Still others, and some residents, won't want any part of it. Figuring all that out in an open process, and then acting on it, isn't just the right way to do business. Around here, it's the only way.