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Oct 20, 2015 11:42 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

As Housing Units Grow, So Does Traffic In Southampton Town

Traffic heading west on County Road 39 on Tuesday evening.  DANA SHAW
Oct 21, 2015 12:08 PM

With major new residential developments proposed in Southampton Town, environmentalist Robert DeLuca is calling for officials to look more closely into how they will increase traffic as a whole.

Mr. DeLuca, who is president of the Group for the East End, noted that there are five proposals with residential components that have the potential to significantly increase the number of cars on South Fork roads: the Gateway project in Bridgehampton, the Sandy Hollow Cove project in Tuckahoe, the Canoe Place Inn project in Hampton Bays, the Hills in East Quogue, and the Water Mill townhouses in Water Mill.

Only the Sandy Hollow Cove and Canoe Place Inn projects have been approved. If the remaining three are as well, the five projects could add 235 housing units in Southampton Town—which would potentially add hundreds of vehicles to the roads, Mr. DeLuca said.

“I think one of the hardest things for local governments to be aware of is the cumulative effect,” he said. “If you approve one in Quogue or Water Mill, each has a certain level of impact, and the tendency is not to examine all of these collectively. By doing that, every major development project has said there will not be a traffic impact—and yet here the traffic is. So we are not doing something right in terms of the analysis.”

According to a study conducted by Mr. DeLuca’s organization, the potential increase in housing units can generate thousands of additional car trips—meaning the number of cars leaving a particular site during the daily peak hours of traffic—spanning the entire town.

The report was conducted using a trip-generating formula created by the Institute for Transportation Engineers Generation Manual, and it estimates that if all five proposals are approved as they are, 182 additional car trips could be generated per peak rush hour every day. According to Mr. DeLuca, that number can and will fluctuate based on the time of year, but he said that means that on average there will be more than 400 trips generated per day, and roughly more than 169,000 car trips added over a period of 200 days per year.

According to a traffic study conducted in connection with the Tuckahoe Center in January 2015, County Road 39 currently sees 51,000 vehicles per weekday and has serious traffic problems that slow both the morning and evening commutes. Taken together, existing congestion and projected increases could leave drivers stuck in traffic over several hours each day.

Currently, the largest application before Southampton Town is The Hills in East Quogue, for which a change in zoning, to a mixed-use designation, has been proposed to allow the developer to build 118 homes, a clubhouse and an 18-hole golf course on 594.5 acres north of Lewis Road near Spinney Road. The developer, Discovery Land Company of Arizona, would combine several properties to complete the project.

Another project is the Canoe Place Inn plan approved earlier this year. Developers Gregg and Mitchell Rechler will combine three properties to restore the crumbling CPI building into a 300-seat dining hall and restaurant, as well as build 37 townhouses on 4.5 acres.

East of the Shinnecock Canal, the largest project has been proposed by developer Philip Young, who wants to put 48 townhouses on 6.45 acres in Water Mill between Montauk Highway and Nowedonah Avenue.

Also on the table are the Gateway project in Bridgehampton and the Sandy Hollow Cove project in Tuckahoe. Across Montauk Highway from the Bridgehampton Commons, the Gateway would create a larger business district for the hamlet, while adding 30 residences, 28 of which would be designated for affordable housing. On Sandy Hollow Road, 28 apartments will be added in three buildings on 2.6 acres.

“Traffic has reached apocalyptic proportions out here,” Mr. DeLuca said. “The town is just looking to add to that.”

According to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who is also a candidate for Southampton Town supervisor, it is not just new subdivision and PDD applications that are increasing traffic on the East End. He said there also has been a sharp increase in single-family homes being constructed over the last few years. He also said there have been several instances of modest homes being demolished to make way for new, much larger mansions, all of which adds cars—and construction vehicles—to local roads.

“Just putting those large-scale developments aside, you are seeing substantially increased amounts of traffic, and then you pile these things on top of them and you have even more,” Mr. Schneiderman said last week. “It is a lot of growth.”

Richard Yastrzemski, who is also running for Southampton Town supervisor, agreed, saying that traffic is past maximum capacity, and that short of decreasing the number of cars or widening the roads, the situation appears glum. “We need to improve the flow of traffic,” he said. “It is happening from developers and single-family homes being constructed all over the place.”

One suggestion from both candidates is to find a way to better utilize public transportation, with both saying the Long Island Rail Road could become a viable option.

“We need a way to use the train that would take a lot of vehicular traffic and cars off the road,” Mr. Yastrzemski said. “It has been done with some success in the past for short-term events. Our largest workforces are for the schools, the hospital and the municipalities, and they are all sitting in the ‘trade parade.’ That is one of the resources that hasn’t been fully tapped that has potential.”

Earlier this fall, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst acknowledged that there has been a steady increase in traffic over the past few years, saying there are more of both seasonal and year-round residents on the East End. One of the problems, officials say, is that the roads in Southampton Town have reached capacity.

According to Ms. Throne-Holst, all PDD proposals will require a traffic study component, meaning that traffic patterns and trip generation will be taken into account.

Mr. Schneiderman added that in many cases there are county restrictions on new developments, adding that the county often charges the developer for road improvements such as curb cuts, new striping or adding streetlights. He added that there are ways the town can work to ensure the most thorough traffic studies possible through the environmental impact statements.

While Mr. DeLuca conceded that there are traffic studies for each of the proposed projects, he said they will not take all the other projects into account, because the review of each includes only projects within a certain distance. For example, the Gateway project study most likely will not include information about traffic generated by the Hills in East Quogue.

“Individually, the projects don’t seem like much,” Mr. DeLuca said. “But it is the death of a thousand cuts—it all adds up, particularly in our case, because we have back roads that are already bumper to bumper. There is nowhere to go.”

Mr. Schneiderman said one of the main issues is that most people do not want to do anything that could potentially ruin the “rural character” of the East End. Without changing narrow country roads, Mr. Schneiderman said, there is little that can be done to alleviate the problem.

“We are struggling to hold on to that rural feeling, and putting traffic that is 10 times the volume they were designed for,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I don’t think there are a lot of great options, I think there are smaller things that will ease it a little bit, but we are still a very much car-dependent area, and it is hard to get people out of their cars. Public transportation is great for a more urban setting where people can walk to the bus stop, but out here you need a car just to get to the bus stop. It’s not suitable for everybody.”

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By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Oct 20, 15 1:17 PM
The headline is a matter of DeLuca's opinion; it should not be presented as fact.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Oct 20, 15 1:59 PM
Not opinion, Fact. Just take a look at all the densely built condos where far fewer houses originally were to have been built, and the huge houses popping up all over town with six, eight or ten bedrooms, rather than the old standard of three to four, and you should get a good idea about where all the cars are coming from. Look forward to even more traffic as the approved high density PDDs head into construction across the town, and as the existing Benedict condos in Southampton village expand ...more
By Crabby (63), Southampton on Oct 21, 15 9:34 PM
Apparently it is an opinion you share but there is no data provided that would entitle you and DeLuca to claim your theory as fact. There are lots of reasons for increased traffic, the few dozen new housing units you cite are unlikely to make a significant impact.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Oct 23, 15 2:44 AM
Keep building, we're loosing the quaintness of the hamptons. Getting to look like oakdale to patchogue route.
In New England they say, if you don't like the traffic, don't come. Don't see then widening roads...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Oct 21, 15 12:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
Mr. DeLuca has hit the nail on the head. It is poor planning to decide impact on a project by project basis as opposed to viewing impact on the cumulative impact of the combined applications.

Whether you want to call it fact or opinion Mr. Spockian vulgan logic strongly suggests that you must view the trees and the forest when it comes to planning.

By NTiger (543), Southampton on Oct 23, 15 11:21 AM
First of all - what's wrong with a "Traffic Study" done in the Hamptons in January? The roads are open, yes!
And, Queen Anna announced at a Town Board meeting that "PDD's will decrease traffic", so - what is confusing?
By FiddlerCrab (96), Westhampton Beach on Oct 26, 15 5:01 PM
The word of a political prostitute is suspect when one or Her donors' projects is under discussion. VOS , I call B S on your assertion that more housing units doesn't increase traffic, it defies all logic.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Oct 26, 15 5:09 PM
So move and burn down your house to alleviate the traffic.

I never asserted more housing does not increase traffic, I stated that DeLuca's statement, absent any empirical evidence, is simply his opinion and should not be presented in a headline as fact.

It would be ridiculous for a small number of homes to be destroyed to alleviate traffic congestion and is ridiculous for a small number of homes to make a significant difference in the same traffic when built.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Oct 26, 15 6:08 PM