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road construction

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Work will begin once again on New York State Route 347, and North Shore residents couldn’t be happier.

Drivers navigating the roadway from Gibbs Pond Road in Nesconset to Hallock Road in Stony Brook have noticed construction cones beginning to appear. The upcoming work is part of a $71 million state Department of Transportation project, which continues the roadway improvements made to Route 347 years ago in the Smithtown area. Future plans include changes on the state road as far east as Port Jefferson Station.

Through the years, it has become more and more apparent that the road built decades ago is over capacity. Called the Smithtown Bypass in its western portion, the roadway initially served as a way to avoid the heavy traffic of downtown Smithtown. Today, drivers use side roads in the town to avoid Route 347.

Rerouting presents various problems. As drivers speed through residential neighborhoods, congestion appears in spots previously unanticipated. Residents who once lived on quiet streets now have trouble just backing out of their driveways or are hesitant to let their children play anywhere near the roadway.

Adding new travel lanes, traffic signals, raised planted medians and crosswalks to 347 will help ease congestion and keep cars on the main thoroughfare instead of traveling through residential areas.

According to NYSDOT, the road work between Gibbs Pond and Hallock roads will be completed by 2024. While that is a two-year span, the benefits will be well worth the wait.

Suffolk County residents are reminded regularly of the importance of building affordable housing and independent living units to keep our young people and retired residents here on the Island.

Accelerated by the pandemic, which prompted rapid urban flight from New York City, we are also facing an increase in population with more people attracted to the North Shore.

As our area experiences population growth, our infrastructure needs to be modernized and expanded. While there is some hesitancy to widen roads, add overpasses and traffic circles — since these changes might attract more development in the area — traffic is here now. With smart planning, our elected officials on town, county and state levels can work together to determine which roadways in our towns and villages could benefit from widening and other improvements. Continuing the roadwork on Route 347 is a step in the right direction. There is also the prospect of federal infrastructure bill monies.

While many don’t want Long Island to become life in the fast lane, it’s time to accept that it’s no longer country roads taking us home. A proper balance needs to be found to make life a little easier for those who live here as they navigate their day on North Shore roadways.