Two Studies Will Provide Foundation for Transit Planning & Growth In Suffolk

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By Vanessa B. Streeter (Office of County Executive Bellone)

Armed with $600,000 in funding provided through the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC), Suffolk County has issued Requests for Proposals (RFP) for two studies that will provide the foundation for advancing County Executive Steven Bellone’s “Connect Long Island” initiative.  The “Connect Long Island” initiative aims to create new mass-transit connections between major roadways, Long Island Rail Road stations and transit-oriented downtowns to relieve traffic congestion, increase mobility, and spur economic growth.

On Thursday, March 21, the County issued RFPs to identify qualified firms to work with the staff of the Department of Economic Development & Planning to complete the Suffolk County Comprehensive Master Plan 2035 and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) feasibility study.

A bus rapid transit system is a bus system in which the majority of each line operates in a separate, dedicated, right-of-way for transit during peak travel periods, and includes features that emulate the services provided by rail service, such as traffic signal priority, and other features necessary to produce high quality transit.  A recent study along the Route 110 corridor concluded that bus rapid transit would be feasible along that roadway.  The two new studies will work in tandem to provide both broad policy recommendations for transit and related issues, and specific design and implementation plans for bus rapid transit development.

“Where do we want to be in twenty years?” asked County Executive Bellone.  “Do we still want to be fighting traffic every single day; struggling to make ends meet; and losing the fight to keep young adults on Long Island? Or do we want to solve the transportation, housing and economic challenges that confront us today?  To do so, we have to start with facts, innovative planning and effective implementation.  These studies are critical steps in developing a detailed plan of attack that will ensure quality of life and a future in Suffolk for our children and grandchildren.”

“Suffolk County is an active participant in the regional planning process and they are using federal resources which are available to the region to explore transportation solutions in their area,” noted NYMTC Planning Director Gerry Bogacz.

The Suffolk County Comprehensive Master Plan 2035 will be prepared in two phases.  Phase I, currently underway, will provide background and inventory information about the state of Suffolk County across a broad range of issues affecting the economy, environment and quality of life, including: population growth, transportation and land use trends, and the state of natural resources and wastewater infrastructure. This information will form the basis of Phase II, an analysis that will provide policy recommendations and goals for the region.

The transportation element will be a major component of the Comprehensive Master Plan and the firms hired under the terms of the RFP will be required to research Suffolk County roads and major arteries, and determine functional classifications of roadways, roadway characteristics and conditions, traffic patterns and deficiencies, traffic signal interface and demand flow, residential and employment density relative to specific corridors, pedestrian and bicycle access and deficiencies, transit facility conditions, including ferry, freight and airport facilities, and future growth patterns, providing an essential regional baseline of transportation data that will be the foundation for the complementary BRT study.

The BRT study will investigate and analyze the feasibility of BRT along the region’s priority transportation corridors and develop an implementation action plan spanning the entire life-cycle of the project from conception through construction.  The firm hired will research, collect and analyze data pertaining to ten transportation corridors for rapid transit consideration, develop criteria for assessing potential corridors, and assist in final selection of priority corridors.  Because the LIRR provides mass transit options along multiple East-West lines, BRT is particularly well-suited to create connections along North-South corridors.

According to Deputy County Executive, Commissioner of Economic Development Joanne Minieri, “There are many benefits to bus rapid transit.  BRT can provide an easier and less costly commute, promote economic development and improve the environment, primarily by removing vehicles from the road and using clean, alternative fuels. These studies will allow Suffolk to effectuate a solid plan for BRT in Suffolk.”

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