MTA's 20-year to-do list replaces LIRR diesel trains, more

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Building a second track as far east as Yaphank, replacing all diesel trains, and rebuilding six aging bridges are all on the Long Island Rail Road's to-do list for the next two decades.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Wednesday released its Twenty-Year Capital Needs Assessment, which outlines $106 billion in infrastructure projects across the MTA's agencies through 2034.

MTA chairman and chief executive Thomas Prendergast said in a statement that the assessment, combined with major expansion projects like the Second Avenue Subway, "will promote economic growth in regions throughout the state."

The LIRR's listed needs mostly include long-discussed projects, such as work associated with East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal, construction of a second track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, modernization and reconfiguration of tracks and switches at Jamaica, and reopening Republic Station in East Farmingdale to anchor a planned transit hub serving the Route 110 corridor.

Other projects have not been discussed publicly as much, including eventually expanding the Double Track project to Yaphank, rebuilding Babylon Station, and building new train yards on the Huntington-Port Jefferson branch and on the Babylon-Montauk branch.

The LIRR's projects total $13.4 billion. The biggest portion of that, $2.3 billion, will be spent on buying new trains. In addition to buying as many as 318 new electric cars, the LIRR will invest in a new "alternative diesel fleet" to shuttle riders between electrified stations and unelectrified stations, according to the report.

"Infrastructure investment and modernization will continue to be a central focus of the LIRR, particularly as it moves towards its Bicentennial Anniversary at the end of this 20-year needs period," the report said.

Mark Epstein, chairman of the LIRR Commuter's Council, said what stood out most from the report was what was left off it: any mention of a long-debated plan to build a third track between Floral Park and Hicksville.

Prendergast and LIRR president Helena Williams have said they support the plan, which would increase capacity on the Main Line and allow for more reverse commuting onto Long Island. But the $1.3-billion plan has been stalled for years because of a lack of funding and political support.

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"A lot of the projects they're doing now, without a third track, will not reach their full potential," Epstein said. "This is supposed to be your wish list for the future. And I guess we'd wish for a lot more than this."

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