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Feb 24, 2015 12:13 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Riverside Traffic Circle Expansion Could Be Delayed

Feb 24, 2015 4:49 PM

Plans to revamp and widen the Riverside traffic circle, an estimated $4 million project that will be entirely funded by Suffolk County, now might not happen until 2017 at the earliest, a year later than anticipated, due to a backlog of projects.

Suffolk County Department of Public Works officials are now saying they may not have the manpower to start the project next year, even though the money was put in place during the 2014 budget cycle.

“This is an important project,” Suffolk Legislator Jay Schneiderman said this week. “The circle is going to get worse every year, so I’m trying to keep the money in 2016.”

In order to do that, Mr. Schneiderman said he will have to convince his fellow legislators to reappropriate the money for the traffic circle and not bump up another project on DPW’s priority list. Those discussions will come when the Suffolk Legislature meets to draft the county’s 2016, 2017 and 2018 budgets over the next few months, Mr. Schneiderman said.

“I’ll do my best. We have a lot of momentum and excitement about the revitalization of that area,” he said, pointing to ongoing efforts to revitalize the hamlet and attract new businesses. “A delay could take that momentum away and I don’t want to see that happen.”

Bill Hillman, chief engineer for the Suffolk DPW, did not return calls this week seeking comment on why the traffic circle project is no longer a priority for 2016.

The plan to transform the circle into an oval-shaped, two-lane roundabout with sidewalks and crosswalks was finalized in November when Southampton Town voters approved a land swap that gave the county one-sixth of an acre of parkland on the northwest side of the circle, near the Peconic River, which will be cleared as part of the expansion.

For many residents, fixing the traffic circle, which is often a bottleneck, is the first tile in a row of dominoes that must be knocked down to revitalize the hamlet.

“This is not good,” Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, said of the possible delay. “Everybody’s been pitching in to make this project happen and to convince the private sector to have confidence in investing.”

Mr. Taldone, who is also involved in the Riverside Rediscovered revitalization effort, said he is worried about potential business owners being scared off by the delay. “You’re not going to want to open a new business on a road that’s being torn up,” he said.

Renaissance Downtowns, the master development company behind the revitalization effort, has until April to present a blueprint of zoning recommendations, among other suggestions, to Southampton Town officials.

“This is not like the last 20 years,” Mr. Taldone added. “This is actually happening. Every department and agency is moving as fast as they can and, all of a sudden, we could lose a year?”

Mr. Taldone said he is working to gather the support of residents and local officials if the DPW announces a start date of 2017. “I’m hoping some discussions can be had if it’s just a staffing issue,” he said.

Mr. Schneiderman agreed, underscoring that he will push his fellow lawmakers during upcoming budget negotiations to keep the project on schedule for 2016.

“I’m going to try,” he said. “I want to make sure that money gets protected at the very least so it doesn’t get shifted to other projects.”

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