At the recent meeting of the North Sea Citizens Advisory Committee, members discussed Suffolk County’s proposal to use the remaining 11-foot right-of-way on County Road 39 to provide pedestrian sidewalks on either side of the roadway [“Sidewalk Construction Will Mean Regular Lane Closures for Two Years on County Road 39,” 27east.com, March 8]. The following comments reflect the views of many committee members.
No one present was in favor; all strongly opposed it. The proposed plan is woefully out of date. A cursory review of today’s conditions on County Road 39 reveals much has changed since the highway was widened in 2008.
What is the reasoning for the sidewalk project? As best we understand, since on or after 2008, footpaths have been observed along County Road 39, with the inference being that pedestrians were walking to and from the few bus stop locations along that roadway. Further, Suffolk County and County Legislator Bridget Fleming have recently made improved public transit a priority (one with which this writer agrees). Yet, there are better public transit alternatives than encouraging pedestrian traffic along County Road 39 to reach existing bus routes.
Today’s traffic and related congestion on County Road 39 is far more than was envisioned in 2008, when the sidewalk project was designed. Congestion quickly caught up to the widened roadway, and traffic now creeps along during the extended morning and evening rush hours. And during the hours when congestion eases, traffic rarely moves at the posted speed of 35 mph, but races along at close to 50 mph or more.
Rather than creating safer pedestrian traffic along this road, installing sidewalks will instead likely lead to deaths, as unprotected pedestrians are encouraged to walk just inches from high-volume traffic. And do we wish residents living or working on the south side of County Road 39 to cross the roadway to access a westbound bus? Or a person on the north side of the road to scoot across the highway to catch an eastbound bus? Aren’t these frightening scenarios?
The county’s new emphasis on using highly effective mini-buses and flexible scheduling can be greatly expanded at a fraction of the cost of constructing sidewalks along County Road 39 and avoid the staggering disruption of traffic flow during the two-year construction period.
If you are not overly concerned about the potential for pedestrian fatalities, consider the effect on the economy of the East End, as already fearsome commutes for workers, residents and visitors become a flat-out nightmare — for two years or more.
The number of summer visitors and tourism traffic will collapse out of frustration. Summer residents and visitors who found alternative vacation venues during the two-year hiatus may not return.
It is almost certain some businesses will not survive the drop in tourism. All will feel its effects.
Barbara M. Fair
One fine body…