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May 9, 2016 11:39 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Officials Suggest Increasing County Road 39 Speed Limit

Southampton Town officials will explore the possibility of increasing the speed limit on County Road 39 from 35 mph to 45 to help alleviate traffic backups. PRESS FILE
May 10, 2016 3:00 PM

As Southampton Town officials continue to wait for Suffolk County to release data from last month’s County Road 39 blinking traffic light program, other options to help alleviate traffic congestion have been brought to the table—including increasing the speed limit on the highway.

At last week’s Town Board work session on Thursday, May 5, Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said that one possible way to reduce backups on County Road 39 could be raising the speed limit from 35 mph to 45 mph—a suggestion that was brought up and nixed in 2008 after Southampton Town Police warned against such a change, citing safety concerns.

Right now, Mr. Schneiderman explained, traffic backs up where Sunrise Highway ends and County Road 39 begins in Shinnecock Hills, in part because the speed limit drops from 55 mph to 45 mph before the highway ends, and then to 35 mph when County Road 39 begins. He said that causes motorists to slow down, and that creates congestion.

“The 35-mph speed limit, if I recall, was kind of an initial speed limit to get people used to the road,” Mr. Schneiderman said, referring to the widening of County Road 39 nearly a decade ago, when the lower speed limit was introduced. “I know some people are going to love it, some people are going to hate it, but maybe it’s something we can pilot.

“We need to have a conversation about that 35 mph speed limit—nobody seems to drive it anyway,” he added.

The supervisor said he would work with Suffolk County officials, as well as Town Police and Tom Neely, the town’s director of public transportation and traffic safety, to determine if increasing the speed limit would be a viable option.

In 2008, the Town Board agreed to keep the speed limit at 35 mph after former Town Police Chief James Overton, and other police officials, warned that raising the speed could put both drivers and pedestrians in greater danger. “If someone’s going to get in an accident, I’d rather see it happen at 35 mph than 60 mph,” Chief Overton said at the time.

An email placed to Southampton Town Police Chief Robert Pearce was not immediately returned.

Town Councilman Stan Glinka, meanwhile, suggested that more could be done to alleviate traffic on Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays, which spikes between April and Memorial Day, the run-up to the busy summer season, as it is the only other east-west artery crossing the Shinnecock Canal. He and Mr. Schneiderman agreed that blinking lights could be tested somewhere on that road, which tends to back up starting at the intersection with Canoe Place Road—where a new traffic light was installed in the spring of 2014.

“It’s possible a combination of things may make a difference,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “Once we get past Memorial Day, maybe we’ll see some of the traffic subside.”

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This is called common sense in other parts of the country. Slowing traffic down keeps the cars on the road longer, increasing congestion. It may have some to reduce traffic by making trips less worthwhile but since many east enders have to drive up island anyway they have no choice. The road is clogged.

Widening the road or adding new routes does not change anything, either. If people are willing to pend an hour in traffic on a 2-lane road they will do so on a 4-lane road. Added capacity ...more
By Funbeer (273), Southampton on May 9, 16 12:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
That is CRAZY…with all the accidents and deaths …nobody does 35 everybody does 60 to even 70 going east …I drive everyday east around 5pm and 6pm…NOBODY does the speed limit …and if you try to do it…they tailgate you …specially pick up tucks …
By Mate (55), Southampton on May 9, 16 12:59 PM
kinda hate to say it , but we watched 2 vehicles with "volunteer" ambulance stickers, one right behind the other, hauling ass down 39 coming into SH...prob doing at least 50mph ...watched them blow right past us never slowed down....not a good example to set especially when they are the ones responding to the terrible accidents on that road.
By toes in the water (884), southampton on May 10, 16 8:08 AM
You mean a politician thought this on his own, no million dollar survey??? 45mph WOW Has anyone gone that speed other than the trade parade.
By knitter (1941), Southampton on May 9, 16 1:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
If "nobody seems to drive it anyway", how will changing the speed help? That statement is quite telling about the mindset, or skill set, of our elected leadership.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on May 9, 16 1:01 PM
Nicely said. Another "DOH" moment from the leadership.

Stunning, stunning, stunning . . .

Oh, how about a new overpass to placate the members of the Shinnecock Golf Club, now there's a good idea!


By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 9, 16 1:20 PM
“We need to have a conversation about that 35 mph speed limit—nobody seems to drive it anyway,” he added.

...interesting logic.

you might also say:

“We need to have a conversation about that 35 mph speed limit—nobody seems to ENFORCE it anyway,” he added.

This will be great! Soon we will be free to text and drive at 55mph on rt 39!
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on May 9, 16 1:29 PM
Where is there a safe spot for a cop to pull someone over?
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on May 10, 16 9:02 PM
Will increasing the speed just encourage people to drive even faster? Would eliminating the useless LIRR line allow for a conduit to go all the way out to Montauk while giving local traffic speed limits that would be safer for all?
By lo-cal (78), southampton on May 9, 16 1:50 PM
Take a drive on the Great Peconic Causeway...Most scenic water view road in the Hamptons.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on May 9, 16 2:09 PM
Speed limit...hahahaha. Good one.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on May 9, 16 2:23 PM
2 members liked this comment
I wish I was traveling at a speed that requires my need to slow down where the Sunrise meets 39. If I am traveling at only 5 to 20 mph from Hampton Bays onward I have no need to slow down at his merge. I am already crawling.
My need to slow down only occurs during off peak travel, and during off peak 35-40 is a pleasant speed to travel that stretch of highway. It gives me time to react safely to vehicles turning in and out of local businesses. There is never a cop in sight to prevent anyone ...more
By ADAMSG (53), EAST QUOGUE on May 9, 16 2:39 PM
Great post Adamsg
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on May 9, 16 3:24 PM
It's happened, a constructive and thoughtful comment to an article, thank you ADAMSG
By Barley Dunne (21), Southampton on May 9, 16 4:03 PM
So Jay Schneiderman thinks the morning Eastbound traffic backs up because the speed limit drops. That's moronic! Using that logic, there should never be a backup on the LIE (other than accident-related) because the speed limit is the same over the entire length!

You have school buses that stop to pick up kids during the morning commute, that backs up everyone and adds to the backup. The Longview bypass adds to it. The traffic lights add to it. People pulling into and out of highway ...more
By itsamazing (224), Southampton on May 9, 16 5:07 PM
2 members liked this comment
At the beginning of County Rd 39 in no side walk people walk at the edge of the road …really scary…do a sidewalk before you increase the speed limit..

I drive from HB every after 5pm …some people flight at 70 ..going east..is really crazy …you never see a policemen ..nobody pays attention t a flashing light, it should be a light that show you your speed….that is the only one that really work…in Noyac Rd they have like 6 or 8 (both ways)of those lights ...more
By Mate (55), Southampton on May 9, 16 6:19 PM
The old speed limit was 45 before the widening. I set my cruise control in fourth gear rolling down 39, and watch the traffic fly by me.

It's a rare sight to see someone traveling at at 45 or less.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 9, 16 7:07 PM
Go west to the big city, speed??? Get real, slow down and enjoy your job or don't come east. Just like NYC gotta deal with it....
By knitter (1941), Southampton on May 9, 16 7:14 PM
2 members liked this comment
Just pure lack of common sense! How about a turning light in the West Bound direction , to safely make a left at Tuckahoe school light before I get killed !!!!! Seriously!!!! I believe this is the only light on 39 without a left arrow for safe turning!!! Btw, should kept 39 and single lane road instead of widening ! Just dumb
By toes in the water (884), southampton on May 10, 16 7:56 AM
should do away with No Wake zones while we're at it too.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on May 10, 16 10:15 AM
45 is a realistic speed limit. Pleasant drive on North Fork is usually about 45 mph.
By Mets fan (1501), Southampton on May 10, 16 11:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
Part of the problem are people that like to drive slowly in the left lane which is for passing or faster moving traffic...if someone is being tailgate then maybe they should move over so that people don't get frustrated and make dangerous moves, let them pass
By klkw1 (1), southampton on May 10, 16 12:52 PM
1 member liked this comment


Face it folks, CR is basically:

***** . . . S..A..T...U...R..A..T...E..D . . . *****

most of the time!

Limited roadway capacity -- limited vehicles possible.

Mo' people -- mo' problems.

East End Shuttle -- build it and they will come.

Timed traffic lights Lobster Inn to Napeague.


See you next summer with the same suggestion!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 10, 16 1:25 PM
2 members liked this comment
This is the dumbest idea I've heard in quite awhile. At the very least a concrete divider needs to be put in to separate the east - west traffic, before any conversation should be had about increasing the speed limit on Death Road 39
By BillWillConn3 (180), Southampton on May 10, 16 8:56 PM
1 member liked this comment
It is worth looking into. A concrete divider with traffic circles. No left turns. You just proceed to the next circle, double back and turn right.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on May 12, 16 4:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
As others have stated, increasing the speed limit is a terrible idea. The congestion is caused by traffic moving on and off the road into stores, gas stations, etc.

What really needs to be done is more frequent a reliable mass transit to allow the "trade parade" people to come out here in few vehicles.

This may be a crazy idea but what about creating locked / guarded parking lots between Southampton and Montauk where crews can leave their trucks overnight and take a train back ...more
By Rich Morey (378), East Hampton on May 10, 16 10:30 PM
Schneiderman's comment is absurd! Anyone else having buyer's remorse with this rocket scientist? As to the traffic, it's the price that folks pay if they choose to work here and live somewhere else.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on May 11, 16 5:54 AM
2 members liked this comment
Just because nobody does the speed limit is not a reason to change the speed limit......Use the money to add to the police force and have them ENFORCE the speed limit. In addition you could post a police person at the "No Left Turn Sign at Shrubland/Sebonac Road between 6 and 10 AM. People don't respect the sign because they know they're not going to get caught. Catch them you could pay for a year's salary for an extra police presence there! People know that if you drive over 25 on Hill Street ...more
By Woofie56 (1), Southampton on May 12, 16 10:07 AM
We do not need more police. That is never the answer.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on May 12, 16 4:14 PM
This is the WORST IDEA Mr Schneiderman! Sad that this is the best idea our 'leaders' come up with to help ease traffic. So long hamptons as we once knew it....
By Hillsnbells (43), Southampton on May 13, 16 7:56 AM
I think this is a great idea! If CR 39 kills off enough people coming from up West, maybe they'll stop coming.
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on May 13, 16 9:30 AM
If the speed limit is 35 people do 45. (or more) If the speed limit is 45 people will do 55 (or more). Meanwhile people are cutting into traffic from gas stations, stores, side streets, etc. (I am talking off peak here). I feel like increasing the speed will just increase the number of accidents. I am not sure what the solution is, but I don't think it is increasing the speed.
By Polandspring (96), Southampton on May 13, 16 10:13 AM
People are already doing 55 and more. The turning lane is used as a travel lane especially from the diner to Watermill in the AM. The only way to fix this road is to put it back the way it was, one lane each direction with usable shoulders. Push the traffic back onto Sunrise where it belongs and then consider a light rail system on the LIRR road bed from Speonk or maybe even Shirley or Patchogue East.

Also a note to those of you driving lettered company trucks: It doesn't reflect well on ...more
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on May 16, 16 11:47 AM
1 member liked this comment
In theory a light rail system sounds great. What do the passengers do when they get to the Southampton station for example? It's possible to walk to Village and Town Hall and the elementary and middle schools but how about the landscapers, carpenters, electricians, painters, gardeners and domestics coming from up the Island , most have widely varying schedules and don't work within walking distance from the station and need their tools and vehicles. Rail works in urban areas , not here.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on May 18, 16 5:54 AM
The passengers will do the same thing they did years ago when the East End Shuttle experiment was tried.

!!! VISION !!!

Everyone has to realize that the solution here is multi-faceted.

One size solutions do not fit all needs.

Necessary trucks etc. will have automatic-scanning EZ Pass lanes.

Some trucks will also be parked overnight at the new PBRTA train stations and parking lots at Station Hills Rd., the College, Water Mill, Hayground Road, Town Line ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 18, 16 6:56 AM
I drove to Riverhead yesterday morning and the traffic going east was basically bumper to bumper from East Hampton to Sunrise Highway. The problem - as others have stated - is more cars than the road can handle. A way to reduce the number of people / vehicles coming east every morning is the only solution to the traffic problem.
By Rich Morey (378), East Hampton on May 13, 16 11:00 AM
Speed limit? Lol. Didn't know there was a speed limit
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on May 14, 16 8:36 AM
1 member liked this comment
Think back to the last couple of US Opens @ Shinnecock, 1995 & 2004. Everyone thought we were in for massive gridlock, but, surprise, traffic moved better than ever. Why?
Depending in the time of day, 4 lanes turned into 3 going east in the am and 3 going west in the pm. Less traveled times remained the same. Why not try that again? It's worth a shot. PS We will be all set when the US a Open returns in 2018.
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on May 19, 16 3:32 PM
BTW - I understand the road was widen to the narrowest allowable limit, set by the state, for a 4 lane highway; hence, no sidewalks. The reason was to keep the areas village and country feel. A line of beautiful old trees, parallel to the graveyard, had to be sacrificed to widen the road for the trade parade and NY'ers coming from the city to their vacation homes. BTW, the city folk are coming out to the Hamptons to be in the country. The road is a death trap. Large trucks routinely drive on the ...more
By southampton6 (13), Southampton on Jun 25, 16 3:40 AM