Capital budget includes highway funds

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Massive improvements to the two major and often congested gateways to the East End—County Road 58 on the North Fork, and County Road 39 on the South Fork—have been discussed for years. But Suffolk County’s 2007 capital budget and longer-term 2007-2009 capital program, released last week, provide for only moderate relief for motorists on either road.

The capital budget and capital program set forth a $23.7 million project for County Road 58—but other than $2.2 million slated to be spent in 2007, the remainder of the project’s budget is in limbo.

In 2007, $1 million is to be spent for planning, design and supervision, $50,000 for land acquisition, and $1.1 million for construction. Of the construction budget, $880,000 would be in federal funding.

Legislator Edward P. Romaine of Center Moriches, whose district includes County Road 58, is irate that Suffolk Executive Steve Levy is “pushing off” what Mr. Romaine described as much needed work on County Road 58. Traffic on the road has become “horrible,” said Mr. Romaine.

Mr. Levy said the county can afford to fully proceed on either of the road projects only if it receives a large dose of additional federal aid. The $2.2 million for County Road 58 is just “the tip of the iceberg” in terms of what the highway needs, said the county executive. He said “at least $50 million” would be the cost for needed improvements and the county can’t handle this on its own.

Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who with Mr. Romaine, also represents the East End, said that at a meeting with Mr. Levy and his aides in Hauppauge Monday, he heard the figure of $170 million cited for the needed County Road 58 work.

The project description in the capital budget and capital program for County Road 58 states that a number of “mobility, safety, pavement and drainage deficiencies” need to be addressed, but doing so will require additional funding for design and construction work.

The capital plan calls for the project to advance in stages. Initial work will include some immediate paving and re-striping work to help ease congestion. Longer range improvements will need more detailed design, and thus, will progress at a different schedule.

For County Road 39, talk has focused on a new lane the length of the highway. There would be substantial reconstruction work totaling $17.5 million in coming years. But Mr. Levy has said there will be no additional lane unless the county receives more federal aid. Total work on the road would total an estimated $70 million, Mr. Levy said.

“We must follow the federal money,” he said. “The county does big road projects under a formula of 80-percent federal aid and 15-percent state assistance, he explained.

On County Road 39, there would be “localized intersection improvement and drainage improvement” as well as efforts to ease bottlenecks, Mr. Levy said. He added that more will be decided when county officials sit down with town officials at upcoming meetings to hear their concerns.

The capital budget and long-term capital program provide this breakdown for work on County Road 39. There would be $500,000 spent in 2007 for land acquisition; $1.8 million in 2008 for more land acquisition, with $1.5 million coming from the federal government; $8.6 million in 2009, with $2.5 million of that in federal funds for land acquisition and $4.4 for construction. Then there is $3 million slated for construction in the future. That brings the total—with $3.5 million appropriated prior to 2006—to the $17.5 million total.

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