This 1999 photo shows the 1,000-foot-long bridge carrying Cross River Drive (Suffolk CR 105) over the Peconic River in Riverhead. This span is the easternmost fixed link between the north and south forks of Long Island. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
THE EASTERNMOST CROSSING OF THE PECONIC: First proposed by the Suffolk County Department of Public Works in 1968, and adopted in 1970 by the Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board, Cross River Drive was originally designed as a controlled-access, north-south expressway that was to connect Sound Avenue in Northville with the Long Island Expressway (I-495) extension, NY 25 (Main Road), NY 24 (Riverhead-Hampton Bays Road). The original southern terminus of the highway was to be at Suffolk CR 104 (Riverhead-Quogue Road) in the Town of Southampton.
The new Cross River Drive was to allow motorists traveling between the North Fork and the South Fork to avoid the Riverhead traffic circle. It also was to provide access to Indian Island County Park.
Years of delays passed before Cross River Drive was built. Because the proposed highway was to cross the Peconic River wetlands, construction of Suffolk CR 105 had to be approved by the Town of Riverhead, the Town of Southampton, the Suffolk County Environmental Council, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition, separate approval was required from the U.S. Coast Guard for a 1,000-foot span of the Peconic River.
The lengthy review process that delayed construction of Suffolk CR 105 was required for projects constructed after 1970. William Matsunaye, who oversaw highway construction at the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, described it as follows:
This is the first road we have built where we have had to get so many approvals. It is all about repeating the same information to everybody. This is what is holding us up.
Construction of Cross River Drive, which began in the summer of 1973, took approximately two years. Only two grade-separated interchanges, one at Hubbard Avenue in Aquebogue and the other at Indian Island County Park, were incorporated into the final design of Suffolk CR 105.
According to the SCDPW, Cross River Drive carries approximately 15,000 vehicles per day (AADT). Over the years, the four-lane highway has been the site of many fatal accidents owing to a mix of high speeds (over the 55 MPH posted limit) and at-grade intersections. The use of a deep median ditch (instead of a traditional grassy median with catch basins), a construction technique used to stretch construction funds during the fiscally tight 1970's, also has aggravated the highway's accident rate by causing rollovers.
THE CR 105 EXTENSION: An extension of Cross River Drive planned in the late 1970's and early 1980's was never constructed. The extension of Cross River Drive was to veer west from Suffolk CR 104 (Quogue-Riverhead Road), cross Suffolk CR 51 (East Moriches-Riverhead Road) near the Riverhead campus of Suffolk County Community College, and end at Suffolk CR 111 (Captain Daniel Roe Highway) in Manorville. The proposed route of the Suffolk CR 105 extension, which went through the Long Island Pine Barrens, was removed by the Suffolk County Planning Department in the mid-1980's.
This 2004 photo shows the northbound Suffolk CR 105 (Cross River Drive) approaching the at-grade intersection for NY 24 (Riverhead-Hampton Bays Road) in Flanders. (Photo by Eric Smith, www.expresswaysite.com.)
The existing ditch along Suffolk CR 105 should be replaced with a traditional grass median with catch basins and steel guardrails. A 2003 Newsday article remarked these improvements would cost $3 million to implement.
A full cloverleaf interchange should be constructed at the proposed Long Island Expressway (I-495) extension east of Riverhead. The interchange with the LIE extension would be approximately one mile north of the NY 25 intersection.
SOURCES: "Transportation: 1985 Highway Plan," Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board (1970); "Long, Long Road to Highway Bids" by Mike Quinn, Newsday (3/16/1973); "Short Road Is Long on Danger" by Robert Fresco, Newsday (5/11/2003); Suffolk County Department of Public Works; Daniel T. Dey.