By Carl Corry
State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll came down from Albany to meet with local leaders Wednesday who were incensed over the agency’s now-pulled plan to build an expanded rest area on the Long Island Expressway in Dix Hills. The project would have included a 9,000-square-foot building and 200 parking spaces.
Driscoll held a meeting with Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone, Councilwoman Susan Berland and Suffolk Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) in the morning and later with members of the state delegation representing Huntington at state Sen. Carl Marcellino’s office in Oyster Bay.
A number of officials who attended the meeting said they aired their frustration over the DOT’s clearing of trees at the current “text area” between exits 51 and 52 and its move to seek bids for the rest stop, which until recently was expected to be built at Exit 67, near the Suffolk County Farm and nearer to other farms and wineries.
The DOT pulled the project, which was slated to accept bids on Sept. 3, late last week after ferocious opposition by local and state officials representing Huntington, who say they were blindsided by the plan and that it is the wrong place for the expanded rest area considering its proximity to an abutting residential area.
“I had very productive meetings today with local and state officials on Long Island and while no decisions were made, I look forward to continued conversations about the health and safety of all users of the LIE,” Driscoll said in a statement. “I think we can all agree that LIE motorists deserve a safe place to rest and we’ll keep working on the best way to do that.”
“I made very clear to the commissioner that I will not support any rest stop at Exit 52,” said Huntington Councilwoman Susan Berland, who suggested that the DOT take a look at Exit 49 in Melville, where there is an existing Park-and-Ride she said is under-utilized.
In addition to a building that would house a Taste NY store, the rest stop would have four bus spaces.
Another possibility suggested would to be to reconsider Exit 67.
“I think there is a perception is that it’s too far out, but I think that that perception is of someone who doesn’t live on Long Island,” Berland said, noting that there are numerous places for riders to stop between exits along the LIE.
“This is a meeting we should have had with the commissioner before any stage got started,” said state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-South Huntington). “At this point, everything is on hold until they reassess the situation.”
“We pled our case. They listened. Now we’re going to have to further discussions,” added state Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport).