Route 347 ‘Vision Plan’ Advancing

by Ryan Lynch

Retrofitting strip malls: NYSDOT is looking into a frontage road concept for parts of Route 347. Buildings would front on the sidewalk and the agency has suggested it may work with developers to concentrate infill development on the large swaths of excess parking in the corridor (as seen in this rendering).A few years ago, it might have seemed as improbable as Steven Seagal winning an Academy Award. But last week NYSDOT Region 10 (Long Island)’s “Vision Plan” for Route 347 in Suffolk County was honored at Vision Long Island’s Smart Growth Awards for “providing a variety of transportation choices,” and agency officials said the plan would address the root cause of traffic — local land use.

During a presentation at the NY Metropolitan Transportation Council last Wednesday, NYSDOT officials floated the possibility of working with property owners and developers along the corridor to support “community centers” or infill development in areas with excess parking like the Smith Haven Mall.  This could go a long way towards retrofitting poor land uses along the corridor and promoting a more vibrant, walkable and smart growth oriented future for Long Island.

The “Vision Plan” was released in early 2009 and is the result of extensive cooperation between the agency and TSTC, Vision Long Island, the Long Island Progressive Coalition, and local civic groups. It presents the road as a boulevard and suburban greenway complete with landscaped medians, a cycling and walking path and other pedestrian improvements, and improved transit infrastructure. The plan still calls for widening the road by one lane in each direction, but it reduces the speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph and should reduce demand for future widening if it successfully addresses land use. Advocates have called on NYSDOT to reconsider widening in future phases of the project.

The plan has also been assigned the ‘Evergreen’ level of NYSDOT’s “GreenLites” transportation environmental sustainability rating program.  “Evergreen” is the highest level, reserved for only 2% of the agency’s road projects.

At the NYMTC meeting, NYSDOT officials indicated that the first of ten phases of this project will be included in the agency’s two-year proposed capital program. Region 10 officials told advocates that all aspects of the vision plan will be incorporated in this initial phase of the project, and that they intend to use completion of this first phase to push momentum for the remaining components of the plan.

NYSDOT Region 10 has been studying Route 347, which runs from the end of the Northern State Parkway in Hauppauge to 25A in Terryville, for nearly 20 years.  Initially, the results were not promising.  As late as 2007 the agency was still pushing major roadway widening and intersection expansion throughout the 15-mile corridor in the face of widespread local opposition. But the plan has made a major turnaround in the last two years.

Image: Rendering from “Greening 347″ presentation