In the off season, officials talk summer traffic concerns

After another season of North Fork gridlock, the North Fork Traffic Task Force met recently to begin brainstorming solutions for 2019.

A recent meeting, according to Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, brought a broad range of officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Suffolk County Transit Bus, state Department of Transportation, the Long Island Farm Bureau, Harbes Farm, Southold Town and police departments from both towns together to discuss traffic and other safety concerns.

She said the initial meeting sought to identify what and where the problems are. “We don’t really have constant traffic issues,” she said, pointing out the peak between September and November. “Being able to define the problem clearly allows us to really hone in and be able to address some of the issues that are going on,” the supervisor said.

Harbes Farm, located on Sound Avenue, has become a scapegoat for traffic congestion along the two-lane road.

“[Harbes] has been very cooperative. Last year, after some issues, they engaged with a traffic study company who came in and helped them make some changes to their farm,” Ms. Jens-Smith said.

The changes include how patrons enter and exit the properties and where parking lots are located. “They also did some congestion pricing where it was cheaper to get in in the morning than it was midday, so that helped alleviate some of the times people were coming in,” she said.

The supervisor also suggested taking some direction from Southold Town, where road special events, such as cycling races and runs, are barred at the height of the season. “That may be something we want to look at,” she said.

At the meeting, Southold officials also suggested that traffic jams in Riverhead could be hurting some business further east. Ms. Jens-Smith said the MTA could help by eventually providing a scoot train from Riverhead to Greenport during peak times, as they do during the Greenport Maritime Festival. “It’s funny, because [the MTA] said during the Maritime Festival, most that rode those trains were local,” Ms. Jens-Smith said.

Other ideas floated include creating a temporary third lane with cones on Sound Avenue to help traffic flow and to reach out to the agency that assisted the town of Southampton during the U.S. Open golf tournament in June. “At the U.S. Open they did an extra lane with cones, and they felt it worked very well,” said Councilwoman Catherine Kent.

Officials agreed that there was no one-size-fits-all solution that will eliminate all traffic woes.

“I think it’s a great idea to meet in the off-season and maybe pound out some solutions before the pumpkins start again,” Ms. Kent said. “We have to keep trying to do something.”

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