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Port Jefferson backs electrification of LIRR line

A train from Hicksville arrives in Port Jefferson

A train from Hicksville arrives in Port Jefferson on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

A Suffolk County village board hopes a recently adopted resolution will spark the Long Island Rail Road to finally electrify its Port Jefferson Line.

The Village of Port Jefferson board on Feb. 4 unanimously approved a sense resolution expressing its support for "the immediate electrification of all tracks east of the Huntington Train Station on the LIRR's Port Jefferson Branch."

"Electrifying our line makes total sense," said Village Mayor Margot Garant, adding that the project would boost several downtown development projects along the branch, and give LIRR commuters incentive to travel from stations closer to home, rather than drive to the LIRR's busy Ronkonkoma station for better service.

Garant said she planned to meet with officials from other local governments along the line, including the Town of Brookhaven, to urge them to pass similar bills in support of electrifying the line.

"It helps get their attention if you have all the . . . municipalities on board," Garant said.

The Port Jefferson branch, used by nearly 500,000 riders each year, is powered by electrified third rail only as far east as Huntington. The remainder of the line, which includes Greenlawn, Northport, Kings Park, Smithtown, St. James, Stony Brook and Port Jefferson, relies on less-reliable and slower diesel trains.

In recent months, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, the Long Island Association and LIRR president Patrick Nowakowski have all expressed their support for the eventual electrification of the line. But the project is not included in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's proposed $32 billion capital program.

"Maybe we can get it moved up," said Village Trustee Bruce D'Abramo, who proposed the resolution. He said that the "couple million dollars this project would cost" would be well worth it.

In a statement, LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena said the railroad "is happy to talk" about the possibility of electrifying the line.

LIRR officials have previously said electrification can cost up to $18 million per mile, and the tracks between Huntington and Port Jefferson span more than 20 miles.

"It would mean improved service, but it would also be a very expensive capital undertaking and take many years to accomplish," Arena said. "We would need a clear consensus from all local communities and their elected officials before we could possibly proceed."

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