It took 15 years, 26 different plans, and $5.3 million to transform the 1930s era one-lane traffic circle in Riverside into the two-lane “eggabout” now connecting Riverhead and Southampton towns, according to speakers at the Riverside roundabout’s October 26 ribbon cutting. The egg-like modern roundabout’s final design — which reduces both conflict points and the speed of vehicles within the five-legged intersection — was actually drawn on the back of a napkin, according to Suffolk County Department of Public Works’ chief engineer, Bill Hillman. “Drawing on the back of a napkin is really how things get done,” Hillman joked, adding entities behind the project’s completion were as multiple as the new Riverside roundabout’s own legs.
Aside from securing funding — like the additional $1 million secured by Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming to complete the project ahead of schedule and during night-time hours when construction stood to have the least impact on traffic flow — Hillman also credited state officials with solving the most difficult piece of the project: alienation of a small piece of Southampton Town park land on the intersection’s northwest corner. Both state legislation and a successful public referendum led, ultimately, to Southampton Town swapping the needed park property sliver with Suffolk County for a “larger, more environmentally-sensitive waterfront property,” according to a press release. NY State Assemblyman Fred Thiele offered kudos at the ribbon cutting to the Flanders, Riverhead, and Northampton communities for their tireless dedication to area revitalization, which he credited as being the driving force behind boosting regional progress.
“Your persistence and hard work for many, many years is why this is happening today,” Thiele told Friday morning’s crowd. “This is the second time in a couple of months we’ve been here for a project that’s part of the revitalization of this community.”
Flanders Riverhead Northampton Community Association president Ron Fisher — proxied at Friday morning’s ribbon cutting by vice president Sarah Huneault — told The Independent Saturday how proud he is both of the project’s completion and of community members for pushing against political procrastination.
“It’s the gateway to our community, so anytime we can get a capital investment of this size from any level of government we’re very excited,” Fisher said of improvements to an intersection deemed “insufficient” to handle projected traffic patterns resulting from the Town of Southampton’s Riverside Redevelopment Action Plan, which was adopted in 2015.
“A group of, I think, 60 of us or so had gone to a county legislative meeting in 2016 and said, ‘We’re always pushed off and forgotten about.’ We thought it was going to be very difficult to get private investors if the county didn’t pony up the money for the re-do,” Fisher said. As a result of such efforts, including a petition signed by more than 250 people, the project broke ground in May 2017 and was completed a month ahead of schedule.
At the ribbon cutting, Chief Engineer Hillman gave credit to project manager Jeff Dawson, resident engineer Jim Bustamante, and to the contractor, Pioneer Paving Asphalt, for an “on time and on budget” job well done, adding, “They did a fantastic job. We’d welcome them back on any job in the county.”