The first page of a fifteen-page table of property acquisitions and temporary easements required if Rt. 347 is widened. From Rt. 347 Final Environmental Impact Statement.
Increasingly, the New York State Dept. of Transportation (NYSDOT) and its regional offices are acknowledging the need for a more smart growth oriented and sustainable transportation policy. For Long Island’s Region 10, that process has included meeting with local advocates and elected officials. One upcoming test for Region 10 will be how it deals with Route 347, which is scheduled for an old-school widening project next year.
A nearly $400 million proposal to widen a 15-mile stretch of Route 347 from the 454/347 split to Route 25A through the Towns of Smithtown, Islip and Brookhaven on Long Island, has been on the drawing boards for over ten years; a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was finally released last summer. Faced with steadfast community opposition since the initial stages of the project (See MTR #s 278, 368, 537), Region 10 has continued to push a plan that, if ultimately completed, will do nothing over the long term to mitigate congestion for Long Island residents.
The current plan includes adding a lane in each direction for the entire stretch of the project, as well as increasing turn radii at several intersections along the affected corridor. This would create an even more dangerous pedestrian and cycling environment in an area that has already been deemed hostile towards these modes of transportation. The plan also requires enough full and partial property acquisitions to fill a fifteen-page table (which also includes temporary easements) in the FEIS.
The plan does not address the root cause of congestion in the corridor — land use, specifically auto-centric mall and strip-mall developments around the highway. Data in the FEIS shows that increased traffic on a widened Rt. 347 would quickly re-congest the road. Within twenty years of the widening’s completion, average speeds and delay time per mile on the corridor would be back at 2004 levels.
Groups like Tri-State, the Long Island Progressive Coalition, Vision Long Island, and the Neighborhood Network have asked Region 10 to consider halting the widening, incorporating land use into any new transportation plan and, if adding an additional lane is deemed necessary, transforming the corridor into a boulevard with design elements such as a separated local traffic lane, landscaped medians, wide sidewalks, street trees and a protected bike lane. Incorporating any of these ideas in a new and improved Route 347 plan would be a boon for smart growth and sustainable transportation policy on Long Island.