By Aiyana Edmund
As a resident and student in Suffolk County, I’ve watched the town of Riverhead grow, expand and develop over the course of the 20 years of my life thus far. Route 58 in particular has undergone so much expansion and commercialization here in Suffolk County, and with this comes more people and more road traffic.
Due to the rapid development of stores and shopping centers here in Riverhead, I believe there should be more sidewalks on the backstreets. With Route 58 recently expanding to two lanes, the amount of road traffic in Riverhead has increased tremendously. Running parallel to this county road is Middle Road. On Middle Road there are three elderly communities and multiple neighborhoods within walking distance to many of the grocery stores on the county road. My concern is that there is no sidewalk on Middle Road for those of us who live here to walk to any of these (extremely) close stores and groceries.
The 2010 census stated the population of Riverhead was 13,299. With this town quickly growing into a shopping-lovers haven and commercialized district, the amount of people coming to Riverhead each day increases that approximate 13,299 population significantly. Aside from this town popping out new department and retail stores, we are also known for our farmstands and pick-your-own sensationalized fields during the fall and summer seasons. That alone brings in a whole new ratio of pedestrians and drivers to the area.
The point I am trying to establish here is the unethical amount of people existing in Riverhead each and every day compared to the serious lack of sidewalks along the roads of neighborhoods and single homes such as on Middle Road. On Route 58 there is an existing sidewalk that does in fact extend along a large portion of this county road, but no sidewalks exist on the roads in which people live. I personally would not choose to walk on the side of a double lane major road, if there was an alternative option to walk on a back road (for safety reasons, and of course scenic enjoyment).
There are no sidewalks on Middle Road. How can children walk home from the bus stop? Middle Road extends from the cement factory in Calverton to Doctors Path on the brink of Aquebogue. That is the parallel entirety of route 58 and personally I would rather walk along this scenic farm field sprawling side as opposed to the gas-fumed and car-whizzing county road.
Where do the elders in the nearby communities walk? Every morning there is a large group of folks enjoying what they can of their edge-of-the-road morning walk. I drive by, swerving into the oncoming traffic lane to avoid causing any harm to these pedestrians. Because as the saying goes, “pedestrians first”, right?
My proposal, my request, my question is- why? Why the lack of sidewalks? Their addition would bring a newfound level of safety, activity and exercise to the community. Bikes can be ridden, dogs can be walked, children can safely walk home from the bus after school. Joggers won’t have to jump onto the front lawns of stranger’s homes when a car comes by. I, for one, have experienced all too many times the feeling of my ankle giving out as I quickly hop off the road and onto someone’s lawn, stumbling on a hidden grass pothole. With the strip of a simple concrete sidewalk, the distinction between pedestrian and car territory can be defined and safety can increase.
I am fully aware of the funds that would have to be used by the Riverhead municipality in order for sidewalks to be installed. The average cost per foot of concrete sidewalk is $3.79. Multiply that by the approximate 6 mile length of Middle Road and then double it for both sides of the road and you are left with a costly project. I understand. But perhaps instead of the staggering yearly salary per Riverhead police officer of approximately $150,000, we can put money towards a beneficial project in our community that increases safety and health- something that can assist our cops with safety but can’t write us tickets.
Route 58 expansion challenged
By Aiyana Edmund