Editorial: Greenport moves forward on mitigating ferry traffic

Greenport Village is taking a major step toward helping improve traffic problems on Wiggins and Third streets, both of which lead to the North Ferry terminal and the Long Island Rail Road station.

Regular users of the North Ferry to Shelter Island are well aware that traffic can back up considerably on Wiggins Street, often as far as Sixth Street and sometimes all the way to Ninth Street. Along Wiggins there is a designated lane for cars waiting to enter the dock area. There, drivers either park their cars — if space is available, that is — or enter something of a roundabout where they line up to board the ferry.

Drivers who patiently wait in line on Wiggins Street are frustrated by drivers who, instead of turning south on Sixth Street and then east on Wiggins to properly enter the ferry line, instead drive to Third Street and turn south there.

That maneuver brings them head-to-head with cars already waiting in line on Wiggins to enter the roundabout area. Our Julie Lane, who lives in Greenport and writes for the Shelter Island Reporter, sees this often.

“People unfamiliar with the area and using GPS devices are directed to head south on Third Street when, in fact, that is not how they are supposed to enter the ferry line,” she said. “Currently, the line is to be entered from Sixth Street to Wiggins, and those who try and cut in make angry drivers out of those who have properly waited on Wiggins.

“The wait for a boat can be anywhere from a few minutes to as much as two hours (something I have experienced occasionally). You can imagine my anger when someone cuts into line after I have waited a long time,” she said.

On Thursday, the Village Board is expected to approve a resolution that would authorize the village to take out roughly $3 million in a bond. The bond is intended to show the state of New York that Greenport can help pay for construction at the site. This is all part of an effort to line up a state-administered grant that would help pay for road improvements and the rerouting of traffic near Wiggins and Third streets.

A reconfiguration of the traffic pattern could potentially create several lanes leading into the ferry. This would be good news, as it would surely help stop cars from turning on Third Street and cutting into the line of cars that have been waiting for the next ferry.

The state grant would pay 80% of the cost of an engineering study and North Ferry’s owners would pick up another 10%. The village would look to split the remaining 10% with the East End Seaport Museum and the Long Island Rail Road museum — both located in the dock area.

Traffic issues have only worsened in this area over time. Surely, they won’t get better without a major redesign. There is also a lot of truck traffic headed to the North Ferry, Ms. Lane points out, because the “trade parade” heading to the South Fork will use the North Ferry to avoid nightmarish jam-ups on local roads on summer mornings. These are the vehicles of carpenters and plumbers who live up west and have jobs on the South Fork and a host of delivery trucks and vans — service people who can’t possibly afford to live where they work. 

Throw in the many South Fork residents who, on Friday night, take the North Ferry to Shelter Island, then the South Ferry to North Haven in an effort to sidestep Montauk Highway on the South Fork, and you can see the need in Greenport for these improvements.