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LIRR, East End officials to meet on push for more trains

A file photo shows a Long Island Rail

A file photo shows a Long Island Rail Road train. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Long Island Rail Road and East End officials are to meet Thursday to discuss additional commuter rail service on the South Fork and year-round weekend train service to the North Fork.

In a meeting closed to the public in Riverhead, railroad representatives will provide feedback on requests for additional train service to the East End and strategize on how to move forward, a representative of Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) said.

Thiele and other officials will review potential schedules and funding needs for a “South Fork Commuter Connection” that would run locally between Speonk and Montauk and for year-round weekend service to Greenport, Thiele’s representative said.

The South Fork commuter shuttle previously operated in 2007 and 2008 while County Road 39, the main thoroughfare in the Hamptons, was under construction.

North Fork weekend service was reduced in 2010 to operate only between Memorial Day and Labor Day because of budget cuts. In July, the LIRR extended service to run between March and November. LIRR and town officials also agreed that month to explore reinstituting both services.

In a November letter to LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski, Thiele, Assemb. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) and Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) passed along requests from East End officials for more frequent rush hour and weekend trains.

In a Nov. 7 letter to Thiele, East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell asked for LIRR trains to run every half-hour to Montauk during peak periods. He also said he wants to add a westbound LIRR train from Montauk around 11:30 p.m. every night during the summer to accommodate hotel and restaurant employees. 

Town of Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said in a letter dated Nov. 4 to Thiele that North Fork officials seek to have three LIRR eastbound trains arrive in Greenport on Saturdays and Sundays, and to have four westbound LIRR trains depart every weekday.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said in a Nov. 9 letter to Nowakowski that he hopes the LIRR will improve its equipment and signal system on the Montauk branch.

Because of “a shortage of affordable housing,” many East Hampton workers cannot afford to live in town and must commute, which leads to “heavy traffic congestion,” Cantwell wrote in his November letter. About 37,000 people commute to work in the South Fork and about 24,500 commute to the North Fork, according to 2015 U.S. Census estimates.  

The railroad will “continue to work on short-term and long-term ideas on ways to improve our service to the East End communities,” spokesman Aaron Donovan said Tuesday.


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