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Police chief calls for more education to help alleviate ferry traffic

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley discussed ferry traffic with the Greenport Village board Thursday. Photo by Tim Gannon

The quickest solution to alleviate North Ferry traffic might simply be to do a better job with educating drivers, according to Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley.

During the Greenport Village Board’s work session Thursday, Mr. Flatley said he believes motorists heading to and from the ferry aren’t following the directions posted on street signs in the area.

“In my opinion,” he explained, “the short-term solution would be to better educate the motorists that use that roadway and are using the ferry.

“The Wiggins Street and ferry line issue is very much like just about every traffic issue we had on the North Fork … It’s really only needs to be effective for two or three months out of the year and the rest of the year it’s not that big of an issue.”

Signs on Front Street direct ferry traffic to head south on Sixth Street and then head east onto Wiggins Street, where there’s a specific lane for ferry street on the south side of that road.

The chief suggested using signage, pamphlets and other means as a way of better educate drivers as to the correct way to access and exit the ferry.

Traffic coming off the ferry is prevented from using Wiggins Street by the one-way designation, and it is all directed up Third Street, which has a traffic signal at the intersection with Front Street.

Wiggins Street resident Ron Nelson, a retired physicist, said he believes the problem is the traffic getting on the ferry — not the traffic getting off.

He said he measured the average length of a 25-car cue getting off the ferry and found it’s about 415 feet.

Since the ferry can hold up to 25 cars, he said, and the distance from the ferry to the traffic light on Third Street is 520 feet, he believes there’s enough room for all the cars getting off the ferry.

Mr. Nelson said it takes about six minutes for all the cars getting off the ferry to turn left at Front Street.

The problem, he said, is loading cars onto the ferry, and specifically, big tractor trailer trucks, which he said have been as long as 73 feet.

“They get special treatment,” he said, adding tractor trailer trucks are picked out of the ferry line and told to wait at the corner of Wiggins and Third until ferry personnel gives them instructions.

“This morning, there were three of them,” he said.

Mr. Nelson also said he believes there should be a separate line designated for those types of vehicles, he said.

Other suggestions discussed Thursday were making the summertime restriction of parking on the south side of Wiggins Street a year-round ban; making Wiggins Street one-way in the opposite direction; and using an adjacent MTA parking lot as a staging area for the ferry traffic.

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said she believes its unfair to Wiggins Street residents to make that road two-way, adding traffic getting off the ferry will turn up Wiggins if the Third Street traffic is jammed.

The Village Board has been discussing a proposal to make the roadway a two-way street again in hopes of easing ferry congestion. It’s been a one-way street since 2001, when the Village Board made the road one-way in the direction of the ferry terminal in an attempt to deal with ferry traffic then.

The idea behind making Wiggins Street a two-way again is to give traffic exiting the ferry an option of going north on Third Street or west on Wiggins Street if Third Street is congested, according to Mayor George Hubbard, who works on Shelter Island and rides the ferry on a regular basis.

But he admitted it’s not an easy problem to fix.

“This is something that’s been thrown around for 40 years and there’s never been a perfect solution,” the mayor said. He added that the problem only exists for about two hours in the morning. By 9 a.m., he said there’s no ferry traffic jam.

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Photo: Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley discussing ferry traffic during the Greenport Village Board meeting Thursday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)