A series of studies confirmed what any North Fork resident can attest to: seasonal traffic leads to near-gridlock.
“The town experiences near-gridlock conditions during the late summer and fall particularly at the west end of town,” according to one section of the final chapter of Southold Town’s Comprehensive Master Plan. “It can take two or three times as long to travel within the town during these peak tourist conditions, which causes frustration on behalf of the town residents, businesses and visitors.”
Planning Board members presented a draft of the chapter at Tuesday’s Town Board work session. The latest chapter, dealing with transportation and infrastructure, sets goals to improve mass transit, alleviate traffic — especially during peak tourist season — and address alternative forms of transportation, like walking and busing. In addition, an overview of town infrastructure is included to address future needs.
Reducing traffic congestion during the summer and fall months was the key objective addressed in the plan. According to State Department of Transportation studies from 2012 and 2013 that are cited in the draft, seasonal traffic is 10 to 20 percent higher from May to October than the rest of the year.
The plan goes on to recommend additional data and studies, including origin-destination studies to better understand the reasons for seasonal congestion and traffic count stations on ‘key’ routes like Route 48, Route 25 and Peconic Bay Boulevard to account for seasonal fluctuations.
Upon initial review, Councilman Jim Dinizio expressed concern that traffic generated from special events, which require town permitting, had not been considered in the plan. “It’s thousands of cars a weekend that may not be counted,” Mr. Dinizio said.
“It’s a good point and something we’re grappling with,” said planning director Heather Lanza, adding that it was a good suggestion they would consider revising.
According to Matthew Carmody of AKRF, Inc., a traffic engineer who helped prepare the draft, more data collected during peak periods will lead to more thorough results.
“With better counts and better information, you can have better recommendations that are tailored to the town,” Mr. Carmody said.
The traffic and infrastructure chapter is the final piece of the town’s master plan, which will likely undergo revisions following three public input meetings scheduled for the following:
- Monday, Aug. 20, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
American Legion Hall, Mattituck
- Tuesday, Aug. 21, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Peconic Landing Auditorium, Greenport
- Wednesday, Aug. 22, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Peconic Community Center, Peconic
Ms. Lanza said the draft document will be in all public libraries by this week’s end and posted on the town’s website for the public’s review.
The 10 previous chapters, which date back to 2010, encompass issues on local economy, agriculture, housing and land preservation. Before the final plan is adopted by the Southold Town Board — which hasn’t had a comprehensive plan since 1980 — Ms. Lanza said the plan must be reviewed under the State’s Environmental Quality Review Act, which requires an environmental impact statement. A series of public hearings on the plan as a whole will also be conducted, likely in 2019.
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Photo caption: Traffic heading west on Main Road into Jamesport last year. (file photo)