If things don’t change, Sayville school board member James Bertsch estimates that he’ll spend some 55 days stuck in traffic inside Sunrise Highway’s dreaded Oakdale merge.
“The merge is the biggest quality of life issue for us in Sayville,” said Bertsch, a BOCES administrator who attended a press conference last week where the Long Island Contractors’ Association (LICA) and local elected officials called for solutions to deal with the notoriously dangerous intersection. “As a commuter, I travel through the merge from Nassau County to Sayville every day.
“But there are bigger problems with the merge, from the standpoint of getting emergency vehicles through in an emergency. And … there are a lot of environmental problems now at the merge.,” he continued. “However we fix it, we need to be careful not to create new environmental problems.”
The press conference came on the heels of the announcement of Gov. Cuomo’s budget, which included a stagnant funding proposal for Long Island highways, roads and bridges, local officials said.
“We simply cannot wait,” said Marc Herbst, executive director of the Long Island Contractors’ Association. “The Oakdale merge is a dangerous intersection, and it is time to get the funding for an Environmental Impact Study and solve this problem.
“Not only will it save lives, which is the most important thing, it will alleviate traffic at critical times for Long Islanders. It’s a no-brainer. Fix the merge,” he added.
The Oakdale merge is hardly a new concern. In 2018, NYSDOT held a forum with possible fixes to the area, including widening or adding lanes, incorporating bridges or viaducts, however, there has been no action from the state.
“The safety of all of our residents is paramount,” Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter said.
Here’s what other key local officials said during the press conference about the Oakdale merge:
New York State Senator Phil Boyle
“As a member of the Senate majority, I was proud to secure $20 million in our state budget for the design and engineering of a fix for the Oakdale Merge. Now is the time to take the next major step. We need additional funding in our state budget to begin construction on a project to solve this problem, and save our residents from increasingly long traffic nightmares here.”
Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino
“I stand in solidarity with LICA, these leaders and the people on Long Island in calling for an overhaul to the Oakdale merge. It has been a priority for years, and it can no longer be ignored.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone
“For decades, the Oakdale Merge has been a major concern for Suffolk residents, resulting in significant congestion along this busy stretch of highway. Working with stakeholders and our partners in government, we are going to advocate for the funding necessary to see this critical project through.”
Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer
“Enough is enough. We need funding now to improve traffic and safety conditions on this major intersection. The people of Babylon deserve it, and the people of Long Island deserve it.”
Kevin S. Law, president and CEO of the Long Island Association (LIA)
“The LIA’s 2020 priorities include support for a new capital plan that fully funds critical road, highway and bridge projects on Long Island, and the Oakdale Merge should be one of the top priority projects in that plan.”
Bertsch is confident the united front exhibited by the officials at the press conference will lead to a solution.
“How long are we willing to stick our heads in the sand? We deserve better in light of the high taxes we pay,” he said.
“It’s going to be a hassle when they finally do start fixing it,” Bertsch added. “But waiting 55 days to get home to my family on a road (with a 55 mph speed limit) is crazy. We need to fix the merge.”