The Connection Between Unwalkable Streets and Congestion on Long Island

ddddd | Map credit: Patchogue Patch

The most congested roads on Long Island, highlighted in purple. | Map credit: Patchogue Patch

Segments of Long Island’s Sunrise Highway in Nassau County and Route 25A in Suffolk County are two of the most congested areas in New York, according to 2011 New York State data published in the Patchogue Patch.

The stretch of Sunrise Highway between Route 135 and Route 107 in Massapequa has three lanes in each direction and average daily traffic of 52,729, while a mile east, between Park Boulevard and 27A sees average daily traffic of 51,951 and also has a total of six lanes. Rounding out the list is Brookhaven’s Route 25A between Echo Avenue and Route 83. This road has two lanes (five total where there is a turning lane) in each direction and sees average daily traffic of 50,560.

Part of the reason these roads have such high average daily traffic stems from the way they are designed. While certain areas within these segments have sidewalks on at least one side of the street, these sidewalks are far from contiguous. By creating an environment that doesn’t welcome walking or bicycling, like a road with multiple lanes of fast moving vehicles and nothing to help people safely walk or cross, driving becomes the only “reasonable” mode of transportation. It should come as no surprise then that these roads rank among the most heavily congested on Long Island.

Luckily for the communities along Sunrise Highway and Route 25A, it doesn’t have to remain this way. Roads can be redesigned with all users’ – motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists – needs in mind, and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) has indicated that they are taking a look at ways to make Sunrise Highway more attractive to uses other than driving, albeit without much community input to date. Redesigns are already beginning to happen on some major arterials in the region like Route 347 in Suffolk, and even on Hempstead Turnpike, one of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians in the tri-state region.

But it shouldn’t stop there. In addition to designing roads with all users in mind, local land use decisions should be made in tandem with prioritizing bicycling and walking, decisions that many municipalities along Sunrise Highway in particular, are beginning to incorporate into revitalization plans around train stations and their downtowns. But NYSDOT must solicit feedback from a variety of stakeholders at the community level that will support such efforts, a step that remains glaringly absent. Because when people have the option to use other modes, and municipalities are developing downtowns in a more sustainable manner, average daily traffic goes down, and with it, congestion.

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5 comments to The Connection Between Unwalkable Streets and Congestion on Long Island

  • Paul Tabone

    The real reason that the roads are so congested is quite simple. There are too many people living on Long Island. Within the geographical limits of this small piece of glacial deposit there are approximately 8.5 million living and breathing bodies, not bothering to take into account the trucks and buses that are ferrying goods, services, and more people from one end to the other. Wider roads will only invite more development of the remaining clear spaces to further congest the region. Witness the typical “Freeways” in California. 6-10 lanes of traffic that is essentially stopped dead during rush hour. Wider roads to jam more vehicles on to give the illusion of better transportation.

    Leave the roads the way they are and get on the fast track to develop rail systems to move goods and people. Make driving an expensive proposition, but make a practical alternative available. The LIRR needs to be widened, not the LIE.

  • Nathanael

    People need to be able to walk from place to place — sidewalks — because otherwise they will get in the car even to go short distances.

  • I wonder how interconnected local neighborhood streets are on Long Island. I honestly don’t know as being from New Jersey I would avoid Long Island like they had the Plague simply due to the high cost in tolls to get there AND due to the nightmarish traffic.

    What I’d like to see is a comparative analysis done of the roadway networks between western Long Island and northeastern New Jersey suburbs. I find much of northeastern New Jersey to be VERY walk and bikeable simply because the tertiary local streets connect making them not only great walking and biking alternatives to the busy primary roadways but they also diffusely alleviate the pressure of car traffic from being forced onto arterial roadways. I would bet that Long Island’s roadway network is not as permeable as that on the west side of the Hudson.

  • 25A traditionally moved people fairly long distances on Eastern Long Island. Perhaps this has changed, but when I lived there in the late seventies and early eighties it was congested enough, but commute distances were far too long to be done on foot. Heck, I rode my bike from Miller Place to SUNY Stony Brook (later from Port Jeff Station to Stony Brook) and folks thought I was nuts.

    This corridor would have been well served by bicycle routes or paths to connect between neighboring villages such as Port Jeff and Stony Brook, from the community centers to the LIRR depots, etc, to get those short distance trips off the road. Has that been done?

  • [...] and Health is still propagating the old myth that some bike saddles can make men impotent. And Mobilizing the Region draws a straight line between Long Island’s unwalkable thoroughfares and its terrible [...]

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