“I will spend 55 days of my life in traffic at the Oakdale Merge commuting from Sayville to my job in Nassau County,” said James Bertsch, a Sayville Board of Education member and Principal at Nassau BOCES during a press conference on Thursday, Feb. 6, held by the Long Island Contractors’ Association (LICA) during peak rush hour at the infamous stretch of highway. With strong, bipartisan support, elected officials spoke of working hand-in-hand to pressure Albany to grant the funding needed to rectify what has been known as the most problematic merge on Long Island.
The convergence of Sunrise Highway (NY 27) and Montauk Highway/Main Street (CR 85) forces 16 lanes of traffic to slim down to a paltry 6 and with 152,000 cars going through each day (by comparison, the Van Wyck Expressway in New York City has less with 134,000 pointed out by LICA Executive Director, Marc Herbst), the delay time for commuters is profound.
Attended by over half a dozen of local, town, and state elected officials, the press conference presented a united front in both the dismay of the traffic caused by the Oakdale Merge, with each politician introducing their speech with the time it took to get to the location, and the dedication to bringing relief in the form of funding for a redesign and construction.
Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter said, “There’s a reason this is called ‘Malfunction Junction’—every person on Long Island has a horror story about the Oakdale Merge.”
State Senator Monica Martinez, whose district the merge is in, was cheered on as the advocate in Albany for additional funding. Martinez in her speech thanked other local and town representatives for their diligence in contacting state lawmakers about the problems.
The main point of contention is that the new state budget proposal unveiled by Albany includes only a 2-year transportation capital plan that has been deemed universally, by area elected officials, community interest group leaders, and private sector representatives, inadequate for the type of work needed to ameliorate the traffic caused by the current state of the Oakdale Merge. State officials cite an uncertainty with the amount of federal funding they will receive for the 2020-2021 fiscal year as the reason for approving only a 2-year plan instead of a 5-year plan. “We want an environmental impact study done now for when the federal money is available,” said Herbst who sent the crowd into cheers.
State Senator Phil Boyle (R-4th District) went on to compare that the East Side Access project, “…saved commuters half an hour on their commute for $11 billion, when a fraction of that cost could save [Long Islanders] more than that each way.”
Elected officials were also united in stressing the importance of private sector business choosing alternate locations because of traffic concerns and what impact that would have on the local economy.
The Bohemia and West Sayville Fire Departments were in attendance to support the initiative for additional funding as rescue calls are often delayed by traffic on the Oakdale Merge, creating actual life and death scenarios on top of the quality-of-life issues the normal traffic creates.