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Study: 3rd track on LIRR Main Line would boost service, economy

Ann Golob, Director of The Long Island Index,

Ann Golob, Director of The Long Island Index, speaks at The Long Island Association about the proposed LIRR third track before the meeting, Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

A long-debated third track proposed for the LIRR's main line would transform commuting patterns on Long Island, create thousands of jobs and pump billions of dollars into the regional economy, according to a new study.

The report, released Tuesday by the Long Island Index, marks one of the first attempts to measure the benefits of the third-track project, which remains stalled at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The project, estimated to cost $1.1 billion, would add the third set of rails between Floral Park and Hicksville -- giving the Long Island Rail Road more capacity to run trains on the congested line, especially to serve reverse commuters who work on the Island.

According to the study, conducted by Ronkonkoma-based Parsons Brinkerhoff Inc. and HR & A Advisors Inc., the resulting reduced travel time and increased ridership "would stimulate Long Island's economy by improving quality of life, reducing business costs, and promoting spending."

The study predicts that in the first 10 years after becoming operational, a third track would add $5.6 billion to Long Island's gross regional product, $3 billion in personal income, create 14,000 new jobs, and attract 35,400 new residents to Nassau and Suffolk.

Ann Golob, director of the Long Island Index -- a project of the nonprofit Rauch Foundation that publishes data on the region -- said the figures prove that the third track "has the potential to be transformational for our region."

The third track -- considered for about 30 years by the LIRR -- was shelved about six years ago because of a lack of funding and lack of political support. The project, which would require building on some private property, is not in the LIRR's Twenty-Year Capital Needs Assessment -- an internal to-do list.

In a statement, the LIRR said it is "committed to improving train service on the Island," including through ongoing projects like East Side Access and the construction of a second track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma.

"The MTA and LIRR welcome input as they develop the next capital program and examine future infrastructure and equipment needs," the statement said. "We appreciate the contribution to the discussion that was put forward today by the Long Island Index."

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