Town Asks If Flashing Lights Would Ease Traffic Backups

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Southampton Town officials met with Suffolk County traffic engineers on Wednesday to discuss potential hail-Mary attempts to ease congestion on County Road 39, following two weeks of severe early-morning back-ups for commuters.

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said on Tuesday night that the town was going to pitch an idea to make the traffic signals on County Road 39 at Southampton College and at the intersection with Magee Street flash yellow during the morning rush hours, rather than cycle through red light periods, in the hope that it might keep traffic flowing quicker.

Ms. Throne-Holst said the town’s proposal would be that Town Police officers be stationed at the two intersections. In the event of a car coming off Magee Street or Tuckahoe Road, they could halt traffic manually.

“It may have an impact, it may have no impact whatsoever,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “It may not be something that’s even workable. I don’t know, we’ll see. But we need to try to do something to ease things along up there.”

The traffic lights at the two intersections are already two of the longest green lights in the county, holding for as long as four minutes during rush hour periods. In the spring of 2013, after long backups led to outrage from commuters, the county extended the green cycle of the lights from 125 seconds to 240 seconds. The lights do not turn red at all unless a car stops at the cross-street intersections.

At the time, county engineers warned that while the change appeared to alleviate the congestion then, over time the congestion would continue to build as traffic volume increased.

Observers have found that traffic during the rush hours of the spring morning commute is higher even than in the height of the summer season, as the “trade parade” of service workers streams eastward in an effort to finish construction and landscaping work at summer homes on the South Fork.

On Tuesday morning, traffic ground to a crawl as far west as the Eastport exit on Sunrise Highway.

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