Construction has begun on a sidewalk that will be the last link in a continuous pedestrian walkway stretching 10 miles along the north side of Main Road between Riverhead and Mattituck.
The 1.2-mile addition will run from Washington Avenue in Jamesport to Colonial Drive in Aquebogue, according to Eileen Peters, spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation. E.W. Howell of Plainview, the contracting firm hired by the state, is expected to complete the job by summer’s end.
The project is part of a $940,000 initiative to install sidewalks in the Jamesport and Setauket areas. Approximately $700,000 of the funds will be used in Jamesport, Ms. Peters said.
The state decided to install the sidewalk after someone asked why there was a large gap in the Main Road sidewalk, according to Ms. Peters, who said in a previous interview that the money had been requested by the town in 2004. The state fields requests for sidewalks from many municipalities and must decide where they are most needed, she said.
“We evaluated the need and there was significant pedestrian activity,” she said, adding the state wants the new sidewalk to encourage people to walk to work or into town.
Though the state has said the new sidewalks are a necessity, some locals have questioned how much foot traffic the North Fork’s major artery actually sees.
Jamesport resident Betty Lokkeberg, whose property abuts the new sidewalk, said she thought it would ruin the rural quality of her hamlet. “We don’t have that many people walking” along the road, she said. “I don’t like it.”
Riverhead Town Councilman George Gabrielsen, who owns Gabrielsen’s Country Plant Farm on the south side of Main Road, said he didn’t think the sidewalk was going to increase pedestrian traffic because there are only a few homes in the area and not many destinations nearby.
“I think a nice sidewalk isn’t going to hurt,” he said, but “it’s not going to increase business whatsoever.”
He added that it always benefits the town to accept state funds because the money would otherwise go to somewhere else.
When completed, the sidewalk will have ramps and will be handicapped accessible. Although the state is building the walkways, the town will be responsible for maintaining them.
Ms. Peters said most of the money comes from the federal government, but it is not from federal stimulus funds.