This 2004 photo shows the northbound Sunken Meadow State Parkway approaching EXIT SM3 (NY 25 / Jericho Turnpike) in Commack. The overpass ahead carries NY 454 (Veterans Memorial Highway) over the parkway. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
A NEW PARKWAY TO THE NORTH SHORE: In the late 1920's, Robert Moses, who served as state parks commissioner under Governor Alfred E. Smith, acquired several parcels of land totaling more than 500 acres from George and Antoinette Lamb. The shorefront property, which straddled the Fort Salonga-Kings Park border, opened as Sunken Meadow State Park in 1929.
The first roadway construction along the route of the Sunken Meadow State Parkway dates to 1929, when a new two-lane causeway and three-lane bridge from NY 25A in Kings Park to the new state park. Moses drafted plans a four-lane, limited-access parkway - called the "Sunken Meadow Spur" - to connect the park with the Northern State Parkway.
In the 1930's, the Long Island State Parks Commission (LISPC) acquired land for the Sunken Meadow State Parkway right-of-way from the Northern State Parkway right-of-way north to Long Island Sound. Part of the land acquired by the commissioned paralleled the old Commack spur of the Long Island (Vanderbilt) Motor Parkway, which ran from the parkway mainline north to Jericho Turnpike (NY 25). (The old Motor Parkway spur survives today as Harned Road.)
The Sunken Meadow State Parkway continued the dual-carriageway, median-separated design of the Sagtikos State Parkway north to Long Island Sound. The six-mile-long parkway, which opened in 1957 at a cost of $11 million, runs from the Northern State-Sagtikos State Parkway interchange in Commack to the 1,266-acre Sunken Meadow (Governor Alfred E. Smith) State Park.
The parkway was designed with two 24-foot-wide roadways carrying two lanes in each direction, each separated by a wide, variable grassy (and in some locations, wooded) median. Mountable three-inch-high curbs were to allow disabled motorists to move off the parkway onto the shoulders. All crossroads and the LIRR Port Jefferson branch were grade separated.
The interchange at EXIT SM5 (NY 25A) is located about one-quarter mile west of the original park entry road. The Sunken Meadow State Parkway continues north into the park, but the divided highway ends just south of the parking lots. For the final 200 feet of the parkway, the original bridge over Sunken Meadow Creek carries three undivided lanes of traffic.
DESIGN CHANGES: In 1977, maintenance of the Sunken Meadow State Parkway was transferred from the LISPC to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), although ownership remained under the jurisdiction of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP). To accommodate the increase in traffic volume and speed, and to address the accident history, the NYSDOT began to modify the parkway in accordance with Federal and state traffic safety guidelines.
One year later, a new exit, EXIT SM3-A (Suffolk CR 14 / Indian Head Road) in Commack, opened to provide better access to Indian Head Road. Prior to this improvement, northbound motorists on the Sunken Meadow Parkway had to get off at EXIT SM3-E (NY 25 EAST) before turning left immediately from the end of the off-ramp.
During the late 1980's and early 1990's, new MUTCD-compliant signs and high-intensity lighting were installed along the length of the parkway. Along stretches where there are narrow medians, a pre-treated steel guardrail was erected to separate opposing traffic flows, replacing a timber-post guardrail. Sand-filled impact attenuators were placed at overpasses.
CURRENT AND FUTURE IMPROVEMENTS: According to the NYSDOT, the Sunken Meadow State Parkway handles approximately 60,000 vehicles per day from the Northern State Parkway north to EXIT SM3 (NY 25 / Jericho Turnpike), and approximately 25,000 vehicles per day north of Jericho Turnpike. The NYSDOT and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council have scheduled the following short- and long-range projects for the parkway:
The NYSDOT allocated $3.5 million for a design study on the Sunken Meadow State and Sagtikos parkways. The study, which examined possible safety and operational improvements along the 10.9 miles from the Southern State Parkway north to Sunken Meadow State Park, was completed in late 2005.
Longer-range plans call for the construction of a third travel lane in each direction of the Sunken Meadow State Parkway from EXIT SM1 (Northern State Parkway) north to EXIT SM3 (NY 25 / Jericho Turnpike). The two new lanes, which would be set aside for HOV use during rush-hour periods, are expected to handle the new "Long Island Rapid Commute" (LIRC) vehicles envisioned by the "LITP 2000" plan. According to the NYSDOT, the LIRC articulated vehicles would travel on dedicated new and existing HOV lanes on controlled-access highways, as well as on existing arterial roads.
This 2004 photo shows the northbound Sunken Meadow State Parkway at the Scholar Lane overpass in Commack, about one and one-half miles south of EXIT SM4 (Suffolk CR 11 / Pulaski Road and three miles south of Sunken Meadow State Park. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
The Sunken Meadow State Parkway should be widened from four to six lanes between the Northern State Parkway (EXIT SM1) and NY 25-Jericho Turnpike (EXIT SM3), in accordance with the "LITP 2000" plan. This project, in conjunction with the widening of the Sagtikos State Parkway south to the Southern State Parkway, may provide the best opportunity to improve north-south traffic flow in western Suffolk County.
In addition, the proposed Robert Moses bikeway should be extended north along the Robert Moses Causeway, the Sagtikos State Parkway and the Sunken Meadow State Parkway to Sunken Meadow State Park.
SOURCES: "LI Parkway Link Will Open Today," The New York Times (4/01/1957); The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro, Vintage Books-Random House (1974); History of the Long Island State Parkway System, New York State Department of Transportation (1985); Robert Moses: Single-Minded Genius by Joann P. Krieg, Heart of the Lakes Publishing (1989); "LI's Roads in a Big Jam" by Tom Morris, Newsday (2/22/1990); "A Drive for New, Wider Roads" by Mara Rose, Newsday (2/22/1990); New York Metropolitan Transportation Council; S. Berliner, III; Cynthia Blair; Daniel T. Dey; Bill Frohlich; Ralph Herman; Nathan W. Perry; Jim Wade.
Sunken Meadow State Parkway shield by Ralph Herman. Lightposts by Jeff Saltzman. HOV sign by C.C. Slater. Bike route sign by Richard C. Moeur.