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Town concerned East End shuttle service lacks North Fork focus

Mattituck train station

The Southold Town Board is skeptical about a bill in the state Legislature that would establish a Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Council to oversee implementation of an East End shuttle service meant to alleviate traffic problems.

The board is concerned that the plan, sponsored by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), doesn’t have a North Fork focus.

The proposed council would include state and local officials as well as one citizen from each of the five East End towns. It would be tasked with creating an action plan for establishing shuttle trains, bus service to those rail stations, non-stop trains to the Peconic Bay region and a “regional governance structure to operate the transportation plan.”

Councilman William Ruland said at a work session Tuesday there are different needs across the region and the bill does not make clear how the services would be paid for. Another concern was that the bill makes no mention of ferries.

The bill references a 2009 East End Transportation Study Report, completed by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, which concluded an East End shuttle was both “viable and desirable.” Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said that study seemed to be more focused on the public transportation needs of the South Fork because those towns “have the train service and the downtowns. We don’t have hamlet-by-hamlet downtowns.”

Mr. Russell said the North Fork also shoulders the burden of commuter and tourist traffic to the East End, but added that the recent announcement of expanded weekend train service to Greenport will help.

“We want to reserve the right to say, ‘Hey, what about the North Fork here?’” the supervisor said. “In the past I’ve found the point of view was very geared toward the South Fork.”

Mr. Russell said he will reach out to other towns to see if they share similar concerns.

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Photo: Mattituck train station. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)