Whenever Margie Meyer leaves her Oak Avenue home, she always tries to avoid making a left turn onto Flanders Road due to the heavy traffic and speeding cars.
“Turning left onto Flanders [Road] sometimes feels like taking your life into your hands,” the Flanders resident said during an interview this week.
When she has no other choice, Ms. Meyer said it is not unusual for her to have to wait at least five minutes—if not longer—to simply merge onto the state highway, and that includes when she is simply trying to turn to the right and head toward Riverhead.
For those reasons, Ms. Meyer and other residents of her block, as well as those on nearby Longneck Boulevard, were thrilled to learn that the State Department of Transportation has agreed to install new traffic signals where both roads intersection with Flanders Road, possibly as early as this fall. Earlier this summer, the DOT announced that it intends to spend an estimated $10 million to repave the 6.2-mile stretch of Flanders Road from the Riverside traffic circle south to Bellows Pond Road in Hampton Bays.
DOT officials signed off on the two traffic signals earlier this month, following a round of surveys and studies, though the state agency has not yet confirmed when they will go up. Last week, a representative from the DOT explained that both intersections need to be surveyed to determine the exact locations for the poles and other equipment that will support the two lights. The representative did not know when the survey would be completed but presumed that it could happen sometime during the fall.
“It’s a great idea,” said Ms. Meyer, who lives with her son, Wayne, and her two grandchildren. Mr. Meyer said he often worries about his mother when she has to merge onto the busy highway. “There’s been too many deaths, too many injuries,” he said on Monday. “I’d definitely like to see the light installed, sooner rather than later.”
About 1.5 miles to the east, a second traffic signal will be installed where Flanders Road bisects Longneck Boulevard, where a bend in the highway creates a blind spot for drivers as they attempt to merge with traffic.
“I can’t wait,” said Renee Schaefer, who lives on Longneck Boulevard. “I’ve been waiting for years.”
Another hamlet resident, whose mother lives on Longneck Boulevard, said the news is a huge relief. “The intersections are so dangerous,” said John Oliver, who lives around the corner, on Royal Avenue in Flanders. “My mother has to make that turn, and there are people flying around the bend [on Flanders Road].”
The speed limit on Flanders road varies between 35 mph and 45 mph, though most of those interviewed said it is not unusual for drivers to travel well above those limits.
Mr. Oliver also pointed out that the presence of the USA Gas station on the corner of Longneck Boulevard poses as an additional hazard for drivers coming from the side street, because Flanders Road motorists “fly into the station and block the turning lane.”
Though residents of both streets said they support the DOT’s decision, most also expressed concern that the two signals could cause traffic delays.
“I just hope the light will be on a quick timer,” Ms. Meyer said. “Otherwise, there’s going to be backup in all directions.”
Mr. Oliver echoed her sentiments. “It’s long overdue, but in the summer especially I think traffic will back up for a while,” he said. “But it’s definitely worth it.”
Once they are installed, they will be the third and fourth traffic signals, respectively, to line the nearly 9-mile span of Flanders Road that runs from County Route 105 to the north to its southern terminus in Hampton Bays. Other signals are already up where the highway bisects Old Riverhead Road in Hampton Bays, and Bellows Pond Road on the Flanders-Hampton Bays border.
Residents of the community, particularly members of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, have been working with State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. for about two years to get the DOT to survey traffic along Flanders Road.
Last week, Mr. Thiele’s office issued a press release noting that the curb ramps along Flanders Road between the traffic circle in Riverside and Bellows Pond Road in Hampton Bays will be repaired and upgraded, though not until the spring of 2016.
At the present time, there are sidewalks on both sides of the highway from the traffic circle to Old Quogue Road. Sidewalks continue on the south side of the street to Chauncey Road. On the north side, a sidewalk begins again at Pleasure Drive and runs east until just before Fanning Road.
A representative from the DOT said workers will repair and add new curb ramps in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The DOT does not know how much that work will cost or how many curb ramps need to be installed. There are no plans to install additional sidewalks, however.