It came in like a lion and went out like a lamb.
Road closures and redirected traffic as part of the 118th U.S. Open, at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, snarled commuter traffic along County Road 39 and Montauk Highway, forcing cars into nearby back roads early last week and causing Southampton Town police to readjust their traffic plan as the week progressed. By week’s end, with the commuter traffic out of the way, the traffic mess was finally untangled.
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman noted there were some snarls at the beginning of the week, but that he believes the traffic became better as the week wore on. During the week, there were some choke points, but police were able to address them quickly by using aerial photography in real time to ascertain where traffic was backed up and how they could be alleviated, he said.
Police were able to address the stoppages by changing some traffic lights like those at St. Andrew’s and Tuckahoe roads to blinking lights in order to keep move traffic along.
“I think we are going to have to wait and see if this was a positive or a negative,” he said. “Certainly, stand still traffic in the village does not help.”
Lt. Susan Ralph, the town police department’s public relations liaison, noted there was a truck fire that slowed traffic earlier in the week and a glitch, in which commuters were using Montauk Highway instead of Country Road 39, causing a bigger traffic jam on Montauk Highway.
“We alleviated that by telling people, ‘don’t change anything, just take your normal route,” so it lessened a little bit and then doing other adjustments to traffic and the flow actually got better throughout the week,” she said. “Saturday and Sunday, we’ve had no traffic. We’ve had typical Saturday traffic, and Sunday traffic has been extremely light. So, we know it was going to be commuter traffic. We deal with traffic every day, and with Saturday being Saturday, there is no longer commuter traffic.”
By Sunday afternoon, traffic was running smoothly as event goers came and left the tournament’s grounds, many using the free shuttles and taxis at the drop-off location on Montauk Highway at Stony Brook Southampton College.
“Topu,” a taxi driver from upisland who ferried people back and forth throughout the week and would not give his full name, called the driving throughout the week “crazy,” with crowd sizes he had never seen before in Southampton.
“Normally, I work the Mastic-Shirley area, but a lot of people go to the Open over there, so I take the people over there, but, unfortunately, it took over two hours,” he said.
Chris and Maribeth Spitz, who were coming from Shelter Island, parked their car at King Kullen in Bridgehampton because they were unable to secure parking at the Hampton Classic show grounds because an advance ticket for the Open was required. Something, they say, they were not aware of. Instead, they ordered an Uber car, which dropped them off. For them it was smooth sailing to the Open.
“That wasn’t communicated very well,” said Maribeth. “The traffic itself was fine, the Ubers got in and out quite well.”
Westchester resident Ryan Lee, who stayed with a friend and drove to the Open with him to park outside of the event, said the two did not have any problems parking.
“It wasn’t that bad,” he added.
Many event goers used the Long Island Rail Road’s temporary train station at Shinnecock Hills to get to and from the event.
The Long Island Rail Road reported roughly 78,000 people — a record number of event goers — used the temporary rail station set up at Shinnecock Hills throughout the week.
Police Chief Steven Skrynecki on Sunday afternoon said officers would remain in place until the end of the event because that is when fans would be clustered the most and he wanted to ensure everything continued to go smoothly.
“The way the championship has gone . . . we had a number of incidents that we were able to respond to quickly and mitigate very well, so we are hoping to finish up in as good of shape as we are in now,” he said.