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.