LIRR reaches out on train storage plan

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The Long Island Rail Road Monday began reaching out to Port Washington residents to explain, and win their support for, a plan to store more trains at the station.

Their efforts included opening a temporary public information center Monday at Port Washington station with details on a plan to extend storage tracks there, removing at least 40 parking spots.

The project is one of many aimed at increasing the LIRR's capacity in time for the August 2019 opening of East Side Access, linking the railroad to Grand Central Terminal.

LIRR president Helena Williams said at a news conference Monday that for Port Washington customers to get the full benefit of East Side Access, the agency must run more morning trains out of the station. Williams said the extra capacity also will provide benefits such as more express trains and better service to Citi Field.

The Port Washington project is pegged for completion sometime between 2018 and 2019, Williams said.

The public information center will be at Port Washington all this week, then move to Plandome on Monday and Manhasset on Tuesday. The LIRR also will host a presentation about the project on Thursday at the Port Washington Senior Citizens' Center on Manorhaven Boulevard.

Williams said a goal of the LIRR's outreach is to gather the public's input on the $12 million project. "We want to make sure that we're taking all that in and we can address it," she said.

LIRR officials got plenty of input at the news conference, where Town Councilwoman Dina DeGiorgio and several community activists voiced concerns about the project's impact on parking. The plan would require the LIRR to build out its right-of-way onto existing parking areas. Commuters would lose at least 40 of their 1,008 parking spots and as many as 140 if North Hempstead town refuses to sell a small piece of land to the LIRR.

Mindy Germain, executive director of Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, said that parking is already at a premium at the popular station. And if East Side Access attracts new commuters, the parking situation could get worse. "It would mean that you take away 40 and we need 80," Germain told Williams.

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Williams said she understood the community's concerns but said that its parking problems are bigger than the 40 spaces that could be lost. Although she said the LIRR would not "impose a solution," Williams suggested a parking garage, which residents have rejected in the past."You have parking issues now. You're going to have parking issues when we're done. You're going to have parking issues in the future," Williams said. "How the community decides to embrace those, we really feel the community is best suited to make those decisions."

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