The Long Island Rail Road is embarking on a $76 million plan to nearly double the storage capacity of its Ronkonkoma rail yard, president Patrick Nowakowski said yesterday.
As new trains are added to the railroad's system to provide expanded service when the East Side Access project to Grand Central Terminal is completed, rail yards need to be enlarged or built to store the extra cars overnight and to clean them.
"We need facilities and storage areas to keep that equipment," Nowakowski said in a conference call with reporters.
Eleven new tracks will be added to the existing 12 tracks at the yard -- which sits east of the Ronkonkoma station on land owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Nowakowski said. The new tracks will be laid south of the yard and north of Railroad Avenue. All of the expansion will take place in the Town of Islip, which borders the Town of Brookhaven.
In 2010, the MTA bought 30.5 acres from the Town of Islip for $11 million. That included the 12.5 acres that the railroad had been leasing from the town.
On densely suburban Long Island, where industrial sites sometimes sit right next to residential neighborhoods, construction projects on this scale typically would meet resistance.
"The nice part about this piece of property is that it's in an isolated area that is closest to MacArthur Airport," he said.
The expansion is one of several projects the railroad is working on to create storage space for the additional cars. Other similar projects are taking place in Port Washington, Massapequa and Babylon.
As with any large-scale construction project, residents living and working near the site should expect temporary disruptions as trucks deliver materials and workers travel to and from the site, Nowakowski said. The LIRR will coordinate with the communities and set up hotlines to address any construction-related issues. But once the project is done, he doesn't anticipate it would have an impact on the surrounding communities.
The property is currently undeveloped, so trees would have to be cleared to expand the yard, Nowakowski said. The trees along Railroad Avenue would be kept so motorists driving along this stretch will still see a wooded area.
The railroad will hold a two-day information session at the Ronkonkoma station next Thursday and Friday. LIRR riders, residents and business owners can learn more about the project. There will be workers to answer questions.
The public outreach is required under state environmental law. The LIRR must conduct an environmental assessment and get the state's approval before construction can begin.
Construction isn't expected to begin until 2016 and would take two years, Nowakowski said.