By Meng Yuan and Tristan Manaloto
Maureen Shank, a North Fork commuter, says traffic is a nightmare. From September to November, her usual half-hour ride can take her up to an hour and a half, sometimes two hours, on Sound Avenue.
This could have changed, had Riverhead officials applied for the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant. But after initially submitting an incomplete application, they withdrew from competition because the process was too cumbersome, Dawn Thomas, the Riverhead Community Development Administrator, said.
Sound Avenue is a heavily-congested area in North Fork that has a main road with a narrow roadway.
“It’s just a horror on Saturday and Sunday and the traffic is unbelievably bad,” Shanks said. “I think that more buses and trains would help somewhat. However, what I really think will probably help would be having parking spots prior to Riverhead on Sound Avenue.”
Riverhead officials had applied for the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant, a federal funding project from the FDT, to bring more public transportation and reduce traffic tension in their towns and places such as Ronkonkoma and Southold, Dawn Thomas, the Riverhead Community Development Administrator, said.
The TIGER grant would have given North Fork the opportunity to have more bus loops that connect to “scoop trains”, Thomas said. “If the trains were going back and forth along the North Fork line, a rider could get off at any particular stop and catch a bus that would take them to different interesting tourist attractions like apple picking, a winery or whatever they’re interested in.”
The TIGER program has $500 million in total funding through 2020 from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The grant is also designed to benefit the economics of all the east end towns, Thomas said.
“Fall weekend traffic conditions in North Fork have deteriorated in recent years,” Jason Harbes, of Harbes Family Farm, one of the most popular attractions in North Fork. Harbes received multiple complaints from customers about the weekend traffic. “Local infrastructure has not been upgraded to support the increase in visitors to the region who are drawn to its farms, restaurants, and wineries.”
Ambulances at Jamesport, North Fork have also been delayed due to the traffic problems, Barbara Kimmel, a resident who has lived in Jamesport for many years, said.
“My son is a doctor, and he can’t get through to get to a hospital,” Kimmel said. “We have two doctors who live next to us in Jamesport. They get a call on an emergency, but the heavy traffic prolongs their ability to reach the emergency.”
Thomas, from Riverhead Community Development Department said the community will likely re-apply for the next round of the TIGER grant.