Riverside Traffic Circle Widening Work Probably Won’t Begin Until 2018

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The $4 million widening of the Riverside traffic circle is now not expected to begin until 2018, two years later than originally anticipated and year later than estimated this past winter, this time due to a lack of manpower within the Suffolk County Department of Public Works.

Work on the circle, which is being entirely funded by the county, was originally supposed to begin in 2016 but that start date was pushed back a year in February due to a backlog of road improvement projects. A lack of manpower is now threatening to delay the start of the work by another year, until 2018, according to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman.

Representatives of that department recently informed lawmakers that they simply do not have enough laborers to complete the work in either 2016 or 2017, despite the fact that the funding has already been set aside in the county’s capital budget. The work on the actual circle is expected to take between four and six months to finish.

“It’s going to be a bit of an uphill climb,” Mr. Schneiderman said this week, adding that the reconstruction of the troublesome traffic circle is still “number one” on his priority list.

A representative from the Suffolk County Department of Public Works did not return calls this week.

As a newly appointed member of the Suffolk County Legislature’s Capital Budget Working Group, Mr. Schneiderman said he plans to lobby the group to push the project up on the county’s to-do list.

Mr. Schneiderman added that ideally he wants all of the funds transferred to the 2016 schedule; however, he’s also looking at the possibility of splitting the funding between 2016 and 2017, so the project can at least get started next year.

“There’s complications [with splitting it over two years], but at least we’d be able to appropriate the funds,” he said.

The plan to transform the circle into an oval-shaped, two-lane roundabout with sidewalks and crosswalks was finalized in November when Southampton Town voters approved a land swap that gave the county one-sixth of an acre of parkland on the northwest side of the circle, near the Peconic River, which will be cleared as part of the widening.

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr., who, along with State Senator Kenneth LaValle, lobbied for the land swap, recently expressed his concerns with the delay.

“It is incomprehensible that Suffolk County could renege on its commitment to the residents of that area,” Mr. Thiele wrote in a prepared statement Monday. “They have waited long enough for action. The County Legislature needs to redeem the reputation of the county and include this project for construction in the 2016 County Capital Budget.”

Meetings of the working group are scheduled to begin next month.

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