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Plans for Republic Airport LIRR station put on hold

Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman and chief executive Jay

Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman and chief executive Jay Walder chaired a hearing about proposed service reductions and fare increases at the Suffolk County Legislative Auditorium. (March 8, 2010) Photo Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Plans for a new Long Island Rail Road Station near Republic Airport that would anchor a transit hub serving the busy Route 110 corridor are being put on hold for at least five years.

Three days after Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Jay Walder announced that he had cut more than $2 billion out of the MTA's originally proposed 2010-2014 capital plan, LIRR President Helena Williams said Monday that a plan to design a new Republic Station was among the casualties. Work was expected to begin in the next five to 10 years.

Michael DeLuise, president of the Melville Chamber of Commerce, called the decision "shortsighted" and "foolish."

"I'm hoping it's a temporary frustration and that somebody is going to see the light," DeLuise said.

Babylon Supervisor Steve Bellone, who has led plans for the transit hub, called the MTA's move "disappointing."

"There is an incredible opportunity here for our region to create a model for how we have to move forward in terms of creating jobs and growing our economy," Bellone said.

Williams said the LIRR could design and begin construction on the new station in the next five-year capital plan, set to begin in 2015.

Republic Station closed in 1987 because of scarce ridership. But as the Route 110 business corridor has grown in recent years, elected officials, business leaders and transit advocates have called for the LIRR to reopen the station.

The agency announced last year that it would create a new station there as part of a larger plan with the towns of Huntington and Babylon to create a "transit village" in East Farmingdale. The project would include new residential and commercial development near the station and a bus rapid transit system along Route 110. Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone characterized the station as a "key anchor" in the plan.

The LIRR originally included about $3.5 million in its proposed capital plan to study and design the project in coordination with a plan to build a second track on the LIRR's main line between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma. The LIRR has said it has been forced to put that project on hold to meet a federal mandate to spend $350 million to upgrade its collision avoidance system by 2015. The LIRR says it cannot afford to do both at the same time.

And LIRR officials say the new Republic Station makes the most sense with the additional riders who would be brought there with the double track. "You can't do one without the other," said MTA board member Mitchell Pally. "We're not going to have a station in the middle of nowhere."

LIRR Commuter Council Chairwoman Maureen Michaels supported Monday's's decision. She said it could have been a waste of money if the LIRR did not have plans - or the money - to start building it soon. She added that the LIRR should not be spending money to create new stations when service is being cut at many existing stations.

But Sheldon Sackstein, chairman of Melville-based planning group Action Long Island, said the project should be advanced regardless of the fate of the double track project or anything else.

"I cannot for one moment imagine why they could not develop the resources necessary to service probably the busiest corridor on Long Island," Sackstein said. "I think it's wonderful that they want to have a double track out to Ronkonkoma, but don't hold the companies and the residents of the community hostage because they can't figure it out."

 

 

Republic Station

 

The old days. The LIRR opened Republic Station in the 1940s primarily to bring workers to and from Fairchild Engine & Airplane Manufacturing Company during World War II.

Closed. 1986, not long after Fairchild closed its operations in Farmingdale.

Rebirth? The LIRR announced last year plans to spend $3.5 million to study and design a newly reopened station that would be the centerpiece of a transit hub in East Farmingdale. Plans for the site include a new bus rapid transit system along Route 110 that would extend from Sunrise Mall in Massapequa to the Walt Whitman Mall in South Huntington.

For now, delayed. The LIRR announced yesterdayMondaymean yesterday?/lf that it was delaying the study and design of the newly reopened station until at least 2015.

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