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Brookhaven plans to sue after LIRR says no to rail crossings

Town officials say the Long Island Rail Road is obligated to consider new crossings to ease traffic jams on William Floyd Parkway and nearby roads.

Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico on Jan. 31, 2018,

Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico on Jan. 31, 2018, says the town needs more LIRR grade crossings. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Brookhaven officials said Wednesday they plan to sue the Long Island Rail Road over what they said is the LIRR’s failure to respond to calls to add grade crossings in Shirley.

Daily traffic tie-ups on William Floyd Parkway and nearby roads prompted officials last year to hold a public meeting, officiated by a state administrative law judge, at which residents called for one or more additional crossings in the South Shore hamlet.

Town officials said that hearing obligated the LIRR to consider new crossings. To date, LIRR officials have not complied, they said.

“We get tired of asking,” Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico said at a news conference at the Mastic-Shirley LIRR station. “We are essentially going to sue the railroad. Think of how absurd this has become.”

LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan said in a statement the railroad would not consider adding crossings, “for safety reasons.”

“Railroad crossings present safety challenges for motorists and pedestrians, and require the sounding of train horns that, along with traffic backups, bells and flashing lights, can disturb neighbors,” he wrote. “The LIRR opposes the creation of new railroad crossings anywhere along our tracks. In fact, we are working to eliminate seven of them, in Nassau County, as part of the Main Line Expansion Project.”

Three roads cross the train tracks in Shirley, including the parkway and Smith and Mastic roads. More than 50,000 people live in Shirley and nearby Mastic and Mastic Beach.

About 20 streets north and south of the LIRR right of way in Shirley come close to, but don’t cross the tracks.

Town officials have expressed concern that the limited north-south access on the Mastic-Shirley peninsula could create a safety hazard if those communities had to be evacuated.

Panico said town officials believe grade crossings should be added at either Madison Street, Hawthorne Street or Roberts Street, all east of the parkway.

Suffolk County Legis. Rudy Sunderman (R-Shirley) said emergency vehicles frequently are impeded by traffic jams when they are responding to calls.

“Any time there’s an incident and they close the road, there’s a delay in getting to the incident,” Sunderman said, adding commuters also are affected.

“People sit in traffic for 90 minutes trying to get out of Mastic Beach,” he said.

Beth Wahl, president of the Mastic-Shirley Chamber of Commerce, said stalled traffic also affects buses taking children to and from school.

“On a daily basis, the traffic . . . is a nightmare,” Wahl said. “We have to have some relief here. ”

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