LIRR president Helena Williams and state Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) Thursday offered new details on the "Double Track" plan as they gathered with labor leaders and elected officials at the project's key location -- the future site of a new train station near Republic Airport in East Farmingdale.
"I view this as a game changer for this region on Long Island," Williams said. "Our goal is to move this quickly."
The project aims to add a second track along a nearly 18-mile stretch of the LIRR that consists largely of a single track. The addition would increase capacity for the LIRR to serve reverse commuters and travelers using Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip, as well as to more easily recover from service disruptions.
Williams said the LIRR will begin design and preliminary construction in July for the project, which will be built in segments. The first stretch of new track will be laid between Ronkonkoma and Central Islip by 2016. The LIRR will continue west from there and reach Farmingdale by 2018, Williams said.
The plan, which MTA officials have called the most important infrastructure project on Long Island, recently got a boost when the State Legislature accelerated funding for its first phase, which will cost $138 million. With only $30 million originally budgeted for the project in its current capital plan, the LIRR expected it would not be able to begin building the second track until 2015 or later.
"We knew how important this was for the Ronkonkoma branch. We knew how important this was for the [Route] 110 Republic corridor project," said Fuschillo, who was joined by state Sens. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Owen Johnson (R-West Babylon).
Williams said that a new Republic station in East Farmingdale would probably be completed around 2018. It's envisioned as the anchor of a new commercial and residential development near the airport that would include a transit hub with buses serving the Route 100 business corridor.