Southampton officials have been tweaking traffic flow around the U.S. Open all week, trying to ease congestion during the opening practice rounds.
But that was just practice. The big show, and the big crowds, are expected to start Thursday with the opening round of one of the nation’s premier golf events. Organizers anticipate about 30,000 fans coming to Shinnecock Hills Golf Club each day. The practice rounds have drawn about half that.
“We’re learning as we go,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. At the same time, he acknowledged, “Each day we expect a larger crowd.”
U.S. Open traffic makes 16-minute drive nearly 2 hours
U.S.Amateur Junior title winner Noah Goodwin, 17, actually missed tee time after what should have been a 16-minute drive took 1 hour, 40 minutes.
So far, officials have yet to find a way to avoid all the stop-and-go traffic, but they’ve made some improvements on the gridlock that gripped the event Monday, during both the morning and evening rushes.
They’re also offering some tips. If possible, take the train. The LIRR is providing service to and from the tournament via a temporary Shinnecock Hills train station built by the United States Golf Association. The railroad is adding the stop to regularly scheduled Montauk branch trips and also adding some trains to the schedule. The LIRR expects to carry up to 9,000 people a day to and from the U.S. Open.
If driving, keep to the main roads. Much of the traffic is jamming up on side roads as people try to avoid the main drags, Schneiderman said. But officials have modified traffic lights and intersections along Montauk Highway and County Road 39 to hasten the movement of vehicles. Many traffic lights have been set to flash yellow and some side roads have been blocked off to keep traffic flowing.
In addition, officers are directing traffic at major intersections during heavy travel times.
Try to avoid the morning and evening rushes. This time of year, commuters and vacation travelers create heavy traffic from 5 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 8 p.m.
Monday presented the worst traffic woes. A combination of commuters and spectators headed to and from the Southampton course backed up traffic for 10 miles on Montauk Highway in the morning. And the afternoon wasn’t much better.
Traffic eased somewhat Tuesday, as authorities grappled with the gridlock. Town Police Chief Steve Skrynecki said police received live feeds from Suffolk County police helicopters and a drone provided by the state to help keep traffic moving.
Wednesday saw much of the same, Schneiderman said.
But all that, as they say, was just practice.
U.S. Open travel tips
- Temporary LIRR stop at Shinnecock Hills train station.
- Eastbound trains to Shinnecock originate at Penn Station starting at 5:47 a.m. Thursday.
- Flashing yellow signals on traffic lights on major roads to the event.
- Satellite parking lots at Westhampton Beach’s Gabreski Airport.
- Hampton Jitney service to/from Manhattan and also to/from points east.
- Designated pickup and drop-off sites for taxis and ride-share services at Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus.
- Portions of Tuckahoe Road will be closed.
- Vehicles are not allowed to stop, stand or park within a three-quarter-mile radius around the tournament site.