Pictured Above: Looking west from the Love Lane Curve in Mattituck
The “Big Curve” in Mattituck has long been the subject of concern within the community, even more so in recent years as the North Fork’s main corridors have been likened to a “traffic festival.”
A recent traffic study of the Love Lane area conducted for Southold Town by AKRF Consultants made several recommendations for calming traffic in this area, including the installation of a traffic circle on the big curve, which is at the intersection of the Main Road, Love Lane and Old Sound Avenue.
The traffic study area includes a hodgepodge of local, state and county roads, making coordination between numerous agencies essential, said consultant Matt Carmody of AKRF at an April 13 public forum on the study.
While the study includes many recommendations for slowing traffic and providing better access for pedestrians, including adding medians, curbs and sidewalks, the traffic circle could prove the most difficult to implement, but also the most crucial element of the plan.
Members of the Southold Town Board agreed at their April 20 work session to reach out to the New York State Department of Transportation for guidance on the traffic circle, since it would have to be installed on a state road.
“We need to get the design buy-in from the DOT,” said Town Engineer Michael Collins at the April 20 work session. “We need to make sure they’re comfortable with a 100-foot-diameter circle. They usually want 120, which will eat into private property and be more disruptive”
“There is precedent for smaller diameter circles. That will work from a design standpoint,” He added.
He added that, if the DOT gives the go-ahead, “that would be the last step to have a shovel-ready project. All we need is financing, and if it could fit in with the [federal] infrastructure bill, that would be perfect.”
“It seemed everybody gravitated toward the circle,” at the community meeting, said Councilwoman Jill Doherty. “There are details to work out, crosswalks, but the [Mattituck-Laurel] Civic Association is on board to help the town with design, grants, etc.”
Other features of the traffic study include potentially eliminating left turns from New Suffolk Avenue, long a bottleneck with poor visibility just to the west of the big curve, and instead directing traffic from New Suffolk Avenue east toward the traffic circle, where drivers who would have otherwise turned left can make a complete loop and continue heading west.
The left turn from New Suffolk Avenue also currently turns directly into a heavily used crosswalk that already suffers from lack of visibilty due to the big curve.
Mr. Carmody recommended creating “pedestrian refuge islands” midway through crosswalks in the area, to give pedestrians a safe place to wait out oncoming traffic.
The study also recommends replacing long-outdated yield signs with stop signs at the intersections between the Main Road and Bay Avenue, Legion Avenue and Pacific Street.
Throughout the area, there are currently areas with no sidewalks, particularly on the inside of the big curve.
“Wherever there are missing sidewalks in a hamlet, they should be installed,” said Mr. Carmody. “They are a basic need for the ADA and they are safer.”
He added that concrete curbs help with erosion and stormwater management, and help to slow traffic.
“When drivers are going through a suburban or rural area, concrete curbs narrow the street width to the field of vision,” he said. “With skewed intersections, having a curb extension to use up the wide no-man’s-land in intersections helps to drive traffic into the proper lane. It makes the pedestrian crossing area shorter and it slows down traffic.”
In response many questions from the public about the time frame of the project Mr. Carmody cautioned that the traffic circle could take quite a bit of time.
“If appropriate funding was found, it could be two to three years for construction, but it could be five years,” he said. “The other things could be sooner.”