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May 14, 2015 6:12 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Flashing Lights Experiment To Ease Traffic On County Road 39 Won't Happen By Memorial Day

May 20, 2015 11:37 AM

An attempt to alleviate morning traffic jams along County Road 39 and Sunrise Highway will not get a test run until late June, after school is out, at the earliest—and possibly not at all.

After being told that the plan—which is to eliminate red lights at two signaled intersections and temporarily block cross-traffic on the county roadway each weekday morning—would require the Tuckahoe School District to hire additional buses and drivers, at substantial cost, Southampton Town and Suffolk County officials abandoned the plan to test run the stops-free period earlier this week.

They had planned to use Town Police and Suffolk County Department of Public Works highway crews to test the result of keeping two traffic signals flashing yellow for the first 90 minutes of the morning rush hour, from 6 until 7:30 a.m., this past Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Instead, officials say they will now wait until school is over for the year in late June to try the experiment.

“The consensus is trying it for a day, finding that day, the most conducive time and the most illustrative of the condition on that roadway,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst told representatives of the area’s two school districts and engineers from Suffolk County during a work session on Thursday, May 14. “The other thing to do is wait and see if there is any truth that the ‘trade parade’ reduces itself.”

Engineers from the county said that waiting until after Memorial Day might not be as indicative of whether eliminating the two red lights would ease the clog of traffic in the weeks leading up to the holiday, when the biggest crush of tradespeople stream eastward every morning as they scramble to get summer homes ready for the season. Waiting for schools to close so that the program would not impact buses would remove at least part of the problem from the highway: teachers.

“If you do it after school ends, that’s maybe 1,000 cars eliminated because of schoolteachers not going to work,” Suffolk County Chief Engineer Bill Hillman said. “That’s 10 percent of the traffic now. That’s four to six minutes of delay time [eliminated].”

A representative of Montauk Bus Company, which contracts with the Tuckahoe School to pick up students, estimated that some 51 buses would have to be rerouted each morning to accommodate the program, which would ban the crossing of County Road 39 and left turns onto the roadway from side streets between 6 and 7:30 a.m.

The rerouting would require the addition of several more buses and drivers in order to get all the kids picked up and dropped at the school on time, according to Montauk Bus Vice President Linda Plourde. It would also require some of the pickups, which currently start at 6:20 a.m., to begin even earlier.

The bus company and school had yet to work up an exact forecast of exactly how much the additional buses would cost, but said it would be significant.

Town Board members said they were not willing to impose costs on the school to test the effort, but asked the district and bus company to estimate anticipated costs should the program be implemented during school hours at some point in the future. Both of the intersections that would be affected if the red lights were eliminated are in the Tuckahoe School District, with one of them just a few hundred feet from the school itself.

Southampton Schools Superintendent Scott Farina said his district, which owns its own buses, had mapped out a work-around on its few routes that intersect County Road 39 and could accommodate its students. He also said the district is eager to see improvements in traffic conditions because the delays have caused numerous problems with late arrivals of staff, and even an increase in absenteeism, which costs the district money.

“If you oversleep by 15 minutes, you’re not coming to work that day … so we have to hire a substitute,” Dr. Farina said at the meeting. “We’re seeing very negative effects.”

The plan had been to switch the traffic lights on County Road 39 where it intersects with Tuckahoe Road, near Stony Brook Southampton, and also Magee Street, so they would flash yellow from 6 until 7:30 a.m. this past Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Their plan was to see if those modifications improved the eastbound flow of traffic.

Engineers have said that, for most commuters, the delays have added about 40 minutes to the morning commute for those who enter Sunrise Highway in Manorville and must travel to County Road 39’s intersection with North Sea Road. The delays have approached what was common before the roadway was widened by two lanes in 2008.

“The reason I think it will work is … this is 10,000 vehicles in the morning and a lot of them are heavy trucks—they stop and there’s a period of time to get them going again,” said Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who first pitched the flashing light idea to town and county engineers. “But if you have the momentum you keep the momentum, I think it’s worth a shot if we can work out the issues with the schools.”

Mr. Hillman said he had doubts that the change would have a substantial impact, but was open to testing it out. He said the main factor in the backups is the slow-down of traffic as vehicles transition from Sunrise Highway to County Road 39.

“Sunrise is a 65- to 70-mph, limited-access highway that can carry 2,000 cars per hour, per lane,” Mr. Hillman said. “County Road 39 is a high-access roadway with traffic signals, driveways and lots of stuff going on. That type of roadway can carry 1,200 vehicles per lane, per hour. That’s 800 vehicles per lane, per hour difference.

“I’m on the fence,” he continued. “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to have a dramatic impact. I could be completely wrong though.”

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The Town of Southampton should do away with the light in Water Mill and make it a yellow light. That area has the biggest backups. There shouldn't be a stop sign by the traffic circle on Scuttlehole Road heading east because when there are a lot of cars they get backed up into the traffic circle. Don't town employees notice this!!!!
By rvs (106), sag harbor on May 14, 15 9:03 PM
5 members liked this comment
You are correct. The two biggest problems. Also, Watermill has three roads converging into that curve prior to the traffic light. Slick drivers detour around flying point road and Cobb road only to slow traffic down more while merging back into traffic. Drivers also being slick try to merge in from old mill road. Close off Little Cobb Road, and Old Mill Road during the am rush and make the red light a blinking yellow is the absolute best you can get.
By deelove (152), Bridgehampton on May 16, 15 5:36 AM
You have a guy whose sole job is transportation and has been for years, and he makes bank. It's ridiculous. So many overpaid and pointless jobs given to people in Town Hall.
By lirider (288), Westhampton Beach on May 14, 15 10:39 PM
Absolute stupidity
By joe hampton (3429), southampton on May 15, 15 12:00 AM
This might work if the Sandy Hollow Rd traffic light is placed on blinking yellow as well. Otherwise, what's the point?
By Zorro (66), Southampton on May 15, 15 12:50 AM
Once again ZERO CONSIDERATION is given to the residents who need to cross 39 to get to work. This is an election year.
By bigfresh (4595), north sea on May 15, 15 5:41 AM
Can someone please shorten the length of the stop light at Magee while we're on the subject? My kids calculated that we will spend about 3 days a year waiting at that light to cross CR39.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on May 15, 15 5:47 AM
While its a nice thought to try and alleviate the morning commute, for those who don't live here, the fact is the road is at capacity. This is no different that the backup going west to NYC on the LIE, Southern or Northern State Parkways in the morning, or the reverse in the afternoon. The County moved the back up east by expanding Cty Road 39, in which the traffic now impacts residential areas that it never did before. So the teachers or others who miss work are being irresponsible by not making ...more
By North Sea Citizen (564), North Sea on May 15, 15 6:42 AM
A bypass is needed to take traffic going east of Southampton off of 39..period.
By sandydog21 (195), Southampton on May 15, 15 7:32 AM
If this idea is not going to add up to a substantial improvement in commuting time, its not worth the cost and disruption it will cause. Its never too late to look at a long term fix to the problem working with the State, County, and maybe Federal government. (The Great Peconic Bay Causeway may be a solution). The future is now. Lets not repeat the blunders of the past by antiquated muddling through mentality espoused by certain local progressive leaders.
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on May 15, 15 10:45 AM
the 39 expansion was a typical east end jerk job by west end politicians. The road is more dangerous than it's ever been and resembles that of a third world country with the width of the lanes and shoulders. The county is broke with so much money tied up in healthcare, affordable housing and benefits for illegals and other socialist programs that a proper reconstruction will never happen.

The infrastructure is already in place for a light rail project but the MTA LIRR dedicated all it's ...more
By politcal pawn (120), Flanders on May 15, 15 11:02 AM
and they want to build a King Kullen near there?
By AFB (31), NYC/SH on May 15, 15 11:03 AM
1 member liked this comment
AFB's trenchant comment above says it all: " . . . and they want to build a King Kullen near there?"

That's right, AFB. They actually want to build a King Kullen, and a bank, and stores, nearly 60,000 square feet all told, near there, on this same strangled County Road 39.

Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, at more than one public hearing on this Tuckahoe Center application, has observed that when a road is congested to the point of near hopelessness, it's madness to add yet more ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on May 15, 15 1:06 PM

There is a limit to how many vehicles any given road can maintain. Think of traffic along the L.I.E. through parts of Suffolk, Nassau and especially Queens. No traffic lights there just more cars than the road can handle. Well that is County Road 39.

Too many vehicles not enough road.

Road can't be widened any more than it has been. Replacing traffic signals with police will only increase the risk of a traffic officer being hit by a vehicle. ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on May 15, 15 5:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
I guess nobody else has noticed that it takes 45 minutes to get from east quogue to the canal in the morning and all the side streets in hampton bays are jammed solid thanks to the new traffic light at canoe place road.

Glinka arent you from HB?? Wake up!! Another wasted vote
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on May 16, 15 6:32 AM
How about charging licensed contractors from outside the Town of Southampton an extra fee for doing business here? Maybe people would be more likely to use local labor instead of Nassau and western Suffolk contractors to do their work. That is the real issue here.
By eagleeye (81), Sag Harbor on May 16, 15 10:15 AM
It's a short season, plan accordingly.
By bigfresh (4595), north sea on May 16, 15 6:00 PM
Blinking yellow lights will not only cause accidents for those who will have to dart across cross CR39, but will cause an even longer backup at the next red light. It's worse this year because the spring season was short, with snow through April.
By lamm (304), Southampton on May 17, 15 12:11 AM
LIRR needs a commuter train from patchogue to the Hamptons - the only eastbound trains get to Southampton n East Hampton at around 3 AMi, 9 AM, and 10 AM, too early and too late for people to get to work - they need a commuter train arriving around 700 AM in SH and EH. And returning departing around 5 PM
By jperrier (53), Springs on May 18, 15 7:23 PM
And then what?... A $$$ cab to work everyday? Mass transit will never be the solution for an area full of laborers in need of tools and train stations that are not in walking distance of metro areas.

Traffic is here to stay...and as baby boomers retire to their Hamptons homes and move from NYC get ready for that busy season to extend and extend more into the year.
By Mouthampton (437), Southampton on May 20, 15 12:49 PM
trains are not the solution, becoming too expensive and you still need to get where you are going from there...taxi's are ridiculous$$ and labors, contractors, etc, need to carry a lot of stuff. this is why are trains are empty, not the scheduling.
By avaday (1), montauk on May 19, 15 9:43 AM