Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took a victory lap Wednesday to celebrate approval in the State Senate of a nearly $2 billion plan to build a third track for the Long Island Rail Road on its Main Line in Nassau.
At a luncheon in Woodbury hosted by the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group, Cuomo touted 100 LIRR improvement projects, totaling $5.6 billion, that he said will reduce rail disruptions, create jobs, boost property values and keep young people in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Cuomo also announced that the $387 million double-track project, expected to increase capacity along 12.6 miles between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, will be completed next summer — months ahead of the MTA’s planned schedule at the end of 2018.
The third track, first discussed 68 years ago, is expected to allow the LIRR to run more trains in both directions, increasing capacity on a 9.8-mile rail stretch between Floral Park and Hicksville used by 40 percent of LIRR passengers.
Cuomo described the project as necessary to help the LIRR more quickly recover from service disruptions and to boost reverse commuting.
“It’s a constant source of breakdowns and then you have a series of cascading delays,” Cuomo told nearly 1,000 business and political leaders. “Once you have a delay the entire system is backed up for the entire morning or entire rush hour and it affects thousands of people.”
Cuomo and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority resurrected the third-track plan in January 2016 but faced local opposition. Floral Park and New Hyde Park residents argued that the project would increase noise and impact traffic.
Last week, State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) signed off on $1.95 billion in public funding for the plan.
To address local concerns, the LIRR will build the third track with noise-reducing technology, install sound barriers and retaining walls and construct five parking garages across the region to increase capacity by 3,500 vehicles.
The plan also calls for replacing 20 miles of track with new signals and switches; 20 new power or electric substations; widening or increasing the height of seven bridges; upgraded station platforms and eliminating seven rail grade crossings.
“These infrastructure projects are investments that pay dividends,” Cuomo said.
While third-track advocates have said work could begin later this year, Cuomo on Wednesday said it probably will begin next year after the MTA solicits bids from contractors to design and build the project. MTA officials have said the project will take three to four years to complete.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the project “demonstrates the thirst and hunger on Long Island for getting big things done.” Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano called it a “historic day for Nassau County, Long Island and New York State.”
Editorial: Take politics out of the third trackThe senators responsible for stalling the third track are the same ones who like to remind us every two years that GOP control of the State Senate is good for Long Island.
Cuomo also touted other LIRR projects, including:
- The $1.6 billion Penn-Farley Complex that will replace Penn Station when it opens in 2020.
- The $375 million reconstruction of Jamaica Station with a new platform, higher speed switches and new signals that is expected to be completed in 2019.
- A $128 million Mid-Suffolk Storage Yard in Ronkonkoma that will allow for an additional eight westbound trains for the morning rail schedule.