LIRR opens Double Track info center

The Long Island Rail Road has opened the Double Track Information Center at the Ronkonkoma station in an effort to educate the public on its plan to build a second track along a stretch of rail in Suffolk. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Jan. 16, 2013)

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The Long Island Rail Road Wednesday unveiled a new information center at its Ronkonkoma station aimed at educating the public on its plan to build a second track along a stretch of rail in Suffolk.

The Double Track Information Center, which will be staffed, will keep varying hours in Ronkonkoma from Wednesday through Saturday, then move to the Farmingdale station for four days next week. Further stops haven't been announced.

The center provides details on the LIRR's $430-million plan to build a second track along a 20-mile, mostly single-track stretch between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma. The LIRR says it expects construction on the project to begin by the end of 2013 and be completed by 2018.

Several elected officials and community, business and labor leaders joined LIRR president Helena Williams Wednesday morning for the opening of the information center, which marks the start of the railroad's public outreach efforts for the project.

The LIRR says the double-track plan will have several benefits, including improving service on the Ronkonkoma line, where a disabled train in single-track territory can cause major service disruptions.

"With two tracks, you can work around it," Williams said. "Two tracks are better than one."

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Political supporters said the project, which will be built entirely on LIRR property, also will create jobs, raise property values and boost major developments near the line, including Wyandanch Rising and planned transit hubs in Ronkonkoma and East Farmingdale.

As part of the project, the LIRR plans to reopen a station near Republic Airport that has been closed since 1986.

"The economic impact to Long Island is significant," said State Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick), who helped secure $138 million for the project's first phase. "And we need it."

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A second track will also allow the LIRR to run more trains, and the agency is already planning to to provide half-hourly off-peak service on the Ronkonkoma line.

"I can tell you from personal experience that the need for a second track is huge," said Mark Epstein, chairman of the LIRR Commuter Council, who travels on the Ronkonkoma line. The LIRR said 44,700 passengers use the line daily.The LIRR is inviting the public to review its Double Track plans both at the new information center and online at mta.info/lirr.

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