It has been roughly two years since the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) broke ground on Long Island’s Route 347 “Greenway,“ a project that was transformed after years of advocacy into a multi-modal corridor. The modified plan better accommodates Suffolk County Transit riders, pedestrians and cyclists, while also promising a more seamless integration of surrounding land uses. Since the first shovels went into the ground, much progress has been made. One mile — from the 347/454 fork to Route 111 — of the 15 mile corridor project has been completed, and the second mile of the project, from Route 111 to Mount Pleasant Road, is currently out to bid.
During a visit to Long Island for other advocacy, MTR visited and took pictures of the first completed mile of the award-winning project showing a raised, landscaped median, pedestrian islands, a multi-use path, and better amenities for transit users. Signage touting the “Parks to Ports Greenway” (which double as bike racks) are also visible at the one mile completion point.
While good progress is underway on some of the design elements, it is unclear what progress NYSDOT is making to forge potential partnerships with local businesses like Smith Haven Mall to create “community centers” and “walkable downtowns” along the corridor. Such partnerships catalyzed initial community and business excitement about the Route 347 Greenway project. NYSDOT can continue to improve the plan to adapt to the changes in Long Island’s transportation priorities. While the first mile of the project widened the road, as does Phase II, NYSDOT should continually review whether future widening aspects of the project should proceed. With new data showing declining vehicle miles traveled throughout the region, particularly among millennials, and the changing housing preferences of Long Islanders, continuing to widen Route 347 will be a waste of limited resources. As transit-oriented development grows in popularity on Long Island, and Baby Boomers are downsizing to downtowns, additional phases of Route 347 should better reflect the demand for varied and affordable housing options that are sought but insufficient on Long Island, and not the exurban development patterns that gave rise to the project initially and are now on the decline.