Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks before Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano...

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks before Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano is sworn into office for his second term by Supreme Court Justice Thomas Feinman at Bethpage High School in Bethpage. (Jan 2, 2014) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Wednesday threw his support behind a controversial plan to link Metro-North Railroad to Penn Station -- which critics fear will further crowd the Long Island Rail Road's main terminal and require the LIRR to reduce service there.

In his State of the State address, Cuomo pushed for the Penn Station Access plan, which would connect Metro-North to Penn Station using existing Amtrak infrastructure, and also construct four new rail stations in the Bronx.

Cuomo's office said the project would deliver needed resiliency to the region's rail network, especially during an emergency affecting Metro-North's longtime Manhattan terminal at Grand Central.

Cuomo spokesman Matt Wing noted that Metro-North's connection to Penn would coincide with the LIRR linking to Metro-North's Grand Central in 2019 through the MTA's ongoing East Side Access project. "You will have more slots for Long Island, not less," Wing said.

Though on the MTA's to-do list for more than a dozen years, the project has gained momentum recently, in part because of support from key MTA decision-makers, including chairman Thomas Prendergast.

But the project has faced resistance on Long Island, including from eight state senators who have said they would not support the plan if it hurts the LIRR.

One of those lawmakers, Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), reiterated his opposition to the project following Cuomo's endorsement. "The only way Metro-North can enter Penn Station is to displace LIRR trains to Penn Station," Martins said. "For the governor to put LIRR commuters at risk is a shame. We'll fight them on it."

An MTA spokesman declined to comment Wednesday.

The MTA has said it aims to run 10 Metro-North trains an hour on weekday mornings into Penn, which already houses the LIRR, Amtrak and New Jersey Transit. The LIRR runs 37 trains an hour into Penn during the morning rush.

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