"I think it's critical for the Department of Transportation to take whatever measures they must to alleviate the traffic situation on that road. People in my district are sick and tired of facing gridlock just to travel a few miles down Nesconset Highway. They should just make the road a limited access highway." - Assemblyman Robert C. Wertz (R-Smithtown), in a 1996 interview with The New York Times
The four-to-six lane NY 347 in Suffolk County, known locally as Smithtown Bypass and Nesconset Highway, is officially known as the Hauppauge-Port Jefferson Highway. This suburban arterial highway, which carries up to 90,000 vehicles per day (AADT), runs northeast for 11.6 miles from Veterans Memorial Highway (NY 454) in Hauppauge to NY 25A in Mount Sinai.
ONCE A COUNTY ROAD: Between 1951 and 1956, Suffolk County constructed "Nesconset Road" through the then-sparsely populated townships of Smithtown and Brookhaven. Originally designated CR 85 in Smithtown and CR 80 in Brookhaven, the highway was constructed within a right-of-way of approximately 144 feet, with provisions for upgrading this road to a controlled-access highway with service roads in the future.
In 1965, the New York State Department of Public Works (NYSDPW) called for the construction of a "Hauppauge Spur" from the southwest terminus of Smithtown Bypass to the Long Island Expressway (I-495) in Hauppauge. The 2.2-mile-long Hauppauge Spur was estimated to cost $5.9 million. In addition, the NYSDPW proposed the construction of a $2.4 million "Nesconset Interchange" between Smithtown Bypass and Middle Country Road (NY 25).
WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN: Lacking funds to upgrade the highway, Suffolk County transferred this highway to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) in 1966, when it was designated NY 347. According to the NYSDOT proposal, NY 347 was to be converted into a six-lane expressway from the Long Island Expressway in Hauppauge (via the Hauppauge Spur) to the intersection of NY 25A and Patchogue-Mount Sinai Road (Suffolk CR 83) in Mount Sinai. Service roads were to flank the expressway on either side throughout its entire length. The new North Shore Expressway was to be constructed within a 270-foot-wide right-of-way.
The 1967 NYSDOT plan defined the route of the North Shore Expressway as follows:
Beginning at a point on state highway LIE 61-3 (I-495) in or near the hamlet of Hauppauge, thence running generally northeasterly through or near the hamlet of Nesconset to state highway eight thousand ninety-four (NY 25A) in or near the hamlet of Port Jefferson Station, said highway may be built with control of access as determined by the commissioner.
The plan also called for interchanges at the following locations:
In addition, grade-separated structures were to be constructed at Brooksite Drive, Mount Pleasant Road, Pond Path, Mark Tree Road and Crystal Brook Hollow Road. The NY 347 expressway conversion project was estimated in 1967 to cost $45.6 million.
MID-SUFFOLK TO QUEENS SUPER 347? Back in the 1960's, the Regional Plan Association (RPA) and the Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board had more ambitious plans for the North Shore Expressway. To the east, NY 347 was to be extended east along the NY 25A corridor to the William Floyd Parkway (Suffolk CR 46, and possible extension of I-91), where it would meet in an interchange prior to the Shoreham-New Haven Bridge. To the west, the North Shore Expressway would have rejoined the NY 25A corridor, perhaps beginning via Veterans Memorial Highway (NY 454) and extending west along Pulaski Road (Suffolk CR 11) to the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway. One plan had the NY 347 Expressway continuing west for 40 miles along the NY 25A corridor to Flushing, Queens, where it was to become the Astoria Expressway (I-678).
Officials also considered a joint "travel corridor" proposal that would have combined construction of the North Shore Expressway with a new electrified, dual-track LIRR Port Jefferson line in a new location.
ADJUSTING TO NEW REALITIES: Although the NYSDOT officially removed the North Shore Expressway from its list of priority projects in 1973, the Tri-State Regional Planning Commission continued to advocate its construction. In its 1975 report Maintaining Mobility, the Commission stated its goals for the expressway as follows:
To serve the continuing urbanization of the Hauppauge-Port Jefferson corridor, NY 347 should be upgraded to limited-access standards. Limited-access connections to the Northern State Parkway (via NY 454-Veterans Memorial Highway) and to the Long Island Expressway (via the unbuilt Hauppauge Spur) are an integral part of this proposal.
As planned development occurs east of Port Jefferson, better highway service will be necessary. If studies show that extending the NY 347 Expressway is preferable to widening NY 25A between Port Jefferson and Shoreham, rights-of-way should be preserved in advance.
Owing to community opposition, increasing construction and right-of-way costs, and the oil crisis, talk of building the North Shore Expressway died down by the late 1970's. In its 1981 revision, the Tri-State Transportation Commission called for the following improvements to NY 347:
Modest capacity improvements, with some grade separations, will be advanced to relieve increasing congestion. This will be a phased program, recognizing that proposals for a six-lane freeway plus service roads, with limited-access connections to the Long Island Expressway and the Northern State Parkway are unlikely to be achievable.
EXPRESSWAY REVIVAL? The idea of upgrading of NY 347 into the North Shore Expressway was resurrected in the 1987-1988 Town of Brookhaven Master Plan as follows:
The ongoing State-sponsored corridor study for NY 347 may result in a recommendation to upgrade this major arterial to expressway standards with six lanes, grade-separated interchanges and service roads. Strip commercial development along this road should be discouraged. Instead, a variety of uses should be encouraged, including residential and office. Whenever possible, access should be from service roads or from combined driveways, with large residential parcels having reverse frontage.
LEFT: This 2000 photo shows the eastbound Smithtown Bypass (NY 347) at Middle Country Road (NY 25) in Nesconset. (Photo by Douglas Kerr.) RIGHT: This 2000 photo shows Nesconset Highway (NY 347), looking west at the signalized intersection with Nicolls Road (Suffolk CR 97) in South Setauket. (Photo by Nick Klissas.) The NYSDOT proposes construction of grade-separated interchanges at both locations as part of the NY 347 improvement project.
NYSDOT REVISES 347 PLANS: In 1991, the NYSDOT began to develop a plan to reconstruct NY 347 that would be amicable to the needs of both commuters and local residents. The need to upgrade NY 347 stemmed from a 50 percent increase in traffic in the previous decade. Instead of the implementing the original 1960's plan to convert the arterial into a six-lane expressway with service roads, the revised plan involved widening NY 347 to three lanes in each direction from Hauppauge to Mount Sinai. The additional lanes were to be constructed within the current NY 347 right-of-way.
The revised 1996 NYSDOT plan, which included overpasses at Old Willets Path (Suffolk CR 108), Veterans Memorial Highway (NY 454), Hauppauge Road (NY 111), Terry Road (Suffolk CR 16), Middle Country Road (NY 25), Nicolls Road (Suffolk CR 97) and Patchogue-Port Jefferson Road (NY 112), was estimated to cost $220 million. (This compared with $400 million for the alternative "freeway-standard" proposal for NY 347.)
More on the project from a release by the NYSDOT:
We're studying various interchange designs for the NY 347 (Nesconset Highway) - CR 97 (Nicolls Road) location right now as part of our NY 347 corridor improvement project. This overall improvement will address the entire length of NY 347, and one of the first sections to be constructed is expected to be at the NY 347-CR 97 interchange. We still have to go through the entire design and environmental impact statement process, during which there will be formal opportunities for public comment, before the project design is finalized.
The following comments are from Marianne Kost, a senior engineer at the NYSDOT:
The purpose of the project is to make safety and traffic-flow improvements to Route 347 from the end of the Northern State Parkway in Hauppauge to Crystal Brook Road in Port Jefferson Station, where Route 347 ends… We brought them back a plan in 1995. It showed that if you had no traffic signals, you would obviously have to build bridges over intersections. We ended up with an awful lot of bridges, as well as ramps and service roads along the whole stretch.
There is a lot of concern about community and esthetics. People don't want this to turn into something like a superhighway or take away from the suburban community feeling…We're pretty sure this plan is the one. It seems to be getting a lot of support from the public, civic associations, elected officials… generally everybody. I think the public is beginning to realize that they can give feedback and it is actually listened to and considered. They don't just throw up their hands… they know that we listen now.
One interesting facet of the 1996 proposal was a resurrection of the Hauppauge Spur from the NY 347-NY 454 split south to the Long Island Expressway. The new Hauppauge Spur, which was to be a two-lane, controlled-access ("super 2") road utilizing either the existing Simeon Woods (County Center) Road or a new right-of-way, was advocated by Hauppauge residents who feared excessive land acquisition along the multiplexed NY 347-NY 454 right-of-way. Estimated to carry approximately 15,000 vehicles per day (AADT), the proposed connection would have provided negligible relief to nearby roads (except for two-lane NY 111, where there would have been significant relief), and was therefore removed from further study.
IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED, TRY AGAIN: Following a cool reception by community activists, the NYSDOT returned with a more "community-friendly" proposal in 2000. The new NY 347 proposal still called for widening the highway from four to six lanes, and in accordance with the "LITP 2000" long-range plan, the new travel lanes would accommodate Long Island Rapid Commute (LIRC) articulated vehicles during peak-hour periods. However, the NYSDOT reduced dramatically the number of overpasses: the new plan called for only three of them (at NY 454, NY 25 and Suffolk CR 97).
One group leading the charge for improvements beyond the scope of the NYSDOT plan is a newly formed group, Committee for a New 347, which has called for a controlled-access, fully grade-separated "greenway" that would offer parkway design features such as stone-arch bridges and natural buffer zones, and more comprehensive features such as open space preservation.
Nick Klissas, the chairman of the Committee for a New 347, further describes the "Nesconset Greenway" plan as follows:
What we are saying is that you can build an efficient road that will also give drivers the feel of what it's like to be on the Northern State Parkway. We feel it would also make the road safer.
The Committee for a New 347 believes that the new (NYSDOT) plan is faulty in three ways. First, it fails to reduce the risk of injury to motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists because it employs "too many traffic lights, overly wide highways, too many curb cuts, and inadequate interchange design at Nicolls Road."
Second, they believe that the new plan would have a larger overall environmental impact than the old (NYSDOT) plan. "The NYSDOT acknowledges that the new alternative will lead to re-congestion of the corridor much sooner than the first proposed plan," wrote committee members. "Congestion inevitably leads to reduced air quality and a poorer quality of life."
Finally, the committee believes that the new plan will fail to create an efficient flow of traffic because it does not separate local from express traffic, and because it will require extremely long waits at traffic lights.
The "Nesconset Greenway" proposal has garnered the support of local politicians and business leaders including the Long Island Association (LIA). Opposing the proposal are community and environmental groups, notably the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization (ABCO) and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
The public review and environmental impact study process is expected to continue through at least 2007. The NYSDOT anticipates construction of the project, whose cost is estimated at $359 million, will be completed between 2012 and 2015, three to six years later than the original estimates.
"Does anyone have any plans to either add a third lane to Route 347 or convert it to a limited access highway the way it should have been all along?" - comment made to the Newsday column "Ask Dr. Conehead"
THE OPTIMAL SOLUTION: Following the recommendations of the Committee for a New 347, NY 347 should be converted into a six-lane expressway from Hauppauge to Mount Sinai, with service roads at selected locations. In addition, this plan would complete the Hauppauge Spur between the NY 347-NY 454 interchange and the Long Island Expressway (I-495), and provide for the expressway conversion of Veterans Memorial Highway (NY 454) west to the Northern State Parkway terminus.
Edward Romaine, the Suffolk County Clerk, articulated his support for the proposal in following Three Village Herald editorial from December 13, 2000:
As (the Committee for a New 347) pointed out, the greenways, bike paths, open space preservation, and park-and-ride facilities are all crucial to the future of Route 347. Land use and zoning, however, is the key. Reducing curb cuts for strip shopping centers, big box stores and future commercial development is essential to Route 347's future. Continued development will only clog this highway further and prevent the type of traffic that makes this highway one of the most congested in Suffolk County.
This road was built more than 45 years ago as a "bypass" to Route 25 and Route 25A. It is time to assess the future of this highway and the communities connected to it.
SOURCES: "Expressway Plans," Regional Plan Association News (May 1964); Arterial Progress (1959-1965), Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1965); "Travel Corridor Proposed on Long Island" by Francis X. Clines, The New York Times (5/28/1967); "Hauppauge-Port Jefferson: State Highway Route 347 Report," New York State Department of Transportation (1967); "Transportation: 1985 Highway Plan," Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board (1970); Maintaining Mobility, Tri-State Regional Planning Commission (1975); Maintaining Mobility, Tri-State Regional Planning Commission (1981); "Lee Koppelman: The Master Planner" by Marilyn Goldstein, Newsday (8/08/1986); "Ways To Go" by Alison Mitchell, Newsday (9/21/1986); "Planners' Legacy: Long Island's Ghost Highways" by William Bunch, Newsday (9/21/1986); "Route 347: The Bypass That Doesn't" by William Bunch, Newsday (12/23/1986); "The Master Plan: Blueprint for Brookhaven," Newsday (2/24/1988); "Back to the Future: LI Updating Master Plan" by Tom Morris, Newsday (3/20/1988); "The Potential Use of Mapping Restrictions in the Preservation of Rights-of-Way in New York State: An Examination of the NY 347-NY 25A Transportation Corridor" by Nick Klissas, University of Virginia Law School (1989); "Route 347 Corridor Study," New York State Department of Transportation (1993); "Farm Road Now a Shopper's Link" by Ramin P. Jaleshgari, The New York Times (4/14/1996); "New Plans for Route 347 Show a 6-Lane Highway" by Stephanie McCrummen, Newsday (8/30/1998); "Along Route 347, Overpass Jitters" by Stewart Ain, The New York Times (2/14/1999); "Construction Ahead: Some Good News" by Hugo Kugiya, Newsday (10/03/1999); "Highway Hopes That Faded" by Sidney C. Schaer, Newsday (11/05/1999); "Some Prefer Old Proposal for Route 347 Improvements" by Anna Demian, The Times Beacon Record (6/08/2000); "Bypass Makeover" by Edward P. Romaine, The Three Village Herald (12/13/2000); "Community Members Get Together To Plan for 347" by Sam M. Schneider, The Village-Times (12/20/2000); "Visions of a Modern 347: Highway or Boulevard?" by John Valenti, Newsday (2/11/2001); "Ask Dr. Conehead" by Kim Nava, Newsday (4/29/2001); "Proposal to Fix Route 347" by John Valenti, Newsday (2/03/2002); "Route 347 Plan: Honk If You Hate It" by John Rather, The New York Times (6/12/2005); Committee for a New 347; New York Metropolitan Transportation Council; Tri-State Transportation Campaign; Daniel T. Dey; Ralph Herman; Mitch Pally; Jack Schaedel; Jim Wade; Karl Walz.
NY 347, Suffolk CR 85, and Suffolk CR 80 shields by Ralph Herman.
SMITHTOWN BYPASS / NESCONSET HIGHWAY / NORTH SHORE EXPRESSWAY LINKS: