Fixing a nightmare
A large crowd turned out for the NYSDOT presentation on the Oakdale Merge last week.

IB/Perrotta

Fixing a nightmare

Story By: ANTHONY PERROTTA
12/6/2018


OAKDALE—The New York State Department of Transportation held a public meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 28, regarding a feasibility study on the Oakdale Merge, located on Route 27 (Sunrise Highway) between Heckscher State Park and Oakdale-Bohemia Road. 

The study, which is being finalized by the NYSDOT, looks to ease congestion and enhance safety on the infamous roadway, where Sunrise Highway and Montauk Highway converge in the vicinity of Connetquot River State Park Preserve. 

NYSDOT representatives attended last week’s meeting, which was held at Oakdale-Bohemia Middle School, to answer questions and receive comments pertaining to the study, which has come up with a dozen proposals. One idea is to redesign the highway so that it runs through Connetquot River State Park Preserve. Other proposals include adding bridges and increasing the number of driving lanes. 

The cheapest option, which includes a movable barrier with no additional lanes added, costs between $20-40 million, while the most expensive, which includes four additional lanes and a 100-foot-wide viaduct, runs between $650-700 million. 

Stephen Canzoneri, the NYSDOT’s public information officer for Long Island, said no formal plans have been made based on the study, which he said should be completed early next year. “Close to 400 people attended [last week’s meeting], which exceeded our expectations,” said Canzoneri. “We are reviewing the comments received and looking forward to our next steps.” 

Canzoneri reiterated that the project is in the early planning stages and it would be premature to comment on what might ultimately be done. “At this point, no concrete plans have been put in place,” he added. 

New York State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) was able to procure $20 million for the study back in 2016. Boyle said the fix is “long overdue,” adding that last week’s meeting was a good opportunity for engineers and those who are most affected, the commuters, to meet and exchange ideas. 

In the past, Boyle has also stated that as a first responder, he knows how important it is to get to an emergency situation quickly. “I can only imagine how daunting it must be for our fire and police departments to respond to an emergency on or around the merge,” he wrote in a statement while trying to raise funds for the study. 

NYSDOT officials said that upon receiving input from the public on the study’s results, more detailed plans can potentially be developed. 

Carol Schwasnick, president of the Oakdale Civic Association, said the plans “make [her] nervous.” As someone who lives in close proximity to the merge, Schwasnick wonders how residents living south of Sunrise Highway will be accommodated during construction. “Are they going to build us our own road out?” she asked. “I’m just concerned if [the project] is really worth it.” 

Keith Snedecor, a Friends of Connetquot member whose ancestor, Eliphalet Snedecor, built and managed the Snedecor Inn before it became the Southside Sportsmen’s Club, said something needs to be done about the traffic situation, but he also worries about how the historical environment could be impacted by a project like this. “I’m all for something being done, though,” he said, adding that sound barriers could make a good addition to the project. 

Joseph Mandanici, commissioner of the West Sayville-Oakdale Fire Department, said something needs to be done about the traffic. Mandanici, however, is concerned about what will happen to a particular access point on Sunrise Highway, near Sunrise Toyota in Oakdale, that the fire department uses in emergences. “We want to make sure we don’t lose that access,” he said.

Kim Richards, a Sayville resident, isn’t opposed to the project, but doesn’t believe it should affect the state park. Richards also blamed what she considers to be overdevelopment for the traffic problems, citing the proposed Island Hills Golf Course development on Lakeland Avenue. 

Kim McCarthy, an Islip Terrace resident, said he is “absolutely” in favor of fixing the traffic issue. McCarthy said his only concern about the project is how soon it will be completed. 

More than 126,000 vehicles travel through the merge every day, according to officials. This section of highway was originally constructed in the 1930s and upgraded in the 1970s and 1980s. A 1987 environmental assessment presented an interim project to provide relief of traffic congestion at the Sunrise Highway interchange until an ultimate reconstruction project is implemented, officials added. 

Residents are encouraged to send comments and questions to: NYSDOT Region 10, NY 27 Oakdale Merge Design Team, 250 Veterans Memorial Highway, Hauppauge, NY, 11788, or r10-rpic@dot.ny.gov. Deadline for comments is Dec. 28, 2018.