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Patrick Nowakowski, new LIRR chief, lays out vision for railroad's future

President of the Long Island Rail Road Patrick

President of the Long Island Rail Road Patrick Nowakowski speaks about ongoing LIRR projects and his plans for the LIRR with Long Island's top business leaders at the LIA's headquarters on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014 in Melville. Credit: Howard Schnapp

LIRR president Patrick Nowakowski's vision for the railroad includes a reopened station near Republic Airport, train security cameras connected to a broader LIRR network, and cleaner tracks.

Nowakowski outlined his plans for the Long Island Rail Road Tuesday while speaking to the Long Island Association, the largest business group on the Island, in Melville. It was Nowakowski's first major address to Long Island business and political leaders since replacing ousted LIRR president Helena Williams in April.

Nowakowski spent much of his time reviewing LIRR projects in the works, including East Side Access and the construction of a second track on the main line in Suffolk.

He also touched on new efforts he wants the LIRR to make, including a right-of-way cleanup.

"We've gotten into some bad habits," Nowakowski said. "There's a tremendous amount of litter out there . . . that needs to be cleaned up. . . . That needs to be a priority."

Nowakowski also touched on innovations he'd like to see the LIRR make, including a system to allow waiting customers to know exactly where their train is at all times, and an enhanced fiber-optic network that could be used for new fare payment systems and for security cameras on trains.

To accomplish those and other goals, Nowakowski said it's imperative that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority get the financial support needed for its next five-year capital plan, expected to cost nearly $30 billion.

Although the plan won't be released until next week, Nowakowski confirmed that it would include the second phase of the double track project between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, and funding to begin work on a long-speculated plan to reopen Republic Station, closed since 1986, in East Farmingdale as part of a transit hub serving the Route 110 business corridor.

"We are obviously, probably going to ask for more than can be afforded, and settle at a lower number," Nowakowski said. "But the Long Island Rail Road can't [bear the fiscal burden] alone."

The plan won't include a project spearheaded by Williams to replace existing Oyster Bay railroad service with "scoot" shuttle trains that would run every 30 to 45 minutes to and from Mineola.

Citing complications in securing land to make Mineola a major transfer point, Nowakowski said the plan is "dead."

LIRR Commuter Council chairman Mark Epstein said that while he had concerns the shuttle plan would inconvenience Oyster Bay riders -- some of whom would have to transfer at both Mineola and again at Jamaica to complete their commutes -- "this cannot be the end of looking at the plight of the Oyster Bay rider."

Long Island Association president Kevin Law said, "We need, as a region and as a business community, to support Pat and make sure he succeeds, because the railroad is a lifeline of our economy," Law said.

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