Four Nassau County communities have released a study they commissioned that criticizes the Long Island Rail Road’s plans to add a third track between Floral Park and Hicksville.
Officials in Floral Park, Garden City, New Hyde Park and the Town of Hempstead in late January hired a Manhattan law firm and a Boston engineering company to review the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s plans for a third track. Vertex Companies of Boston and Beveridge and Diamond of Manhattan released their review on Feb. 14, one day before the official public comment deadline for the project.
The document condemns the MTA’s Draft Environmental Impact Study, or DEIS.
“The DEIS is neither data driven nor analytical. It should be both,” Vertex officials wrote. “In other instances, the required analysis is either flawed or completely missing.”
The $2 billion LIRR Expansion Project would add a 9.8-mile track that officials say will provide needed capacity to recover from service disruptions and to offer extra service, including for reverse commuters.
New Hyde Park Mayor Bob Lofaro said he and the other village leaders hired the firms because they couldn’t make sense of the MTA’s 2,000-page study. The four communities have paid Vertex Companies $94,000 for the review. The final bill from Beveridge and Diamond has not been released yet, said Floral Park Village Administrator Gerry Bambrick.
Lofaro and the other mayors are now asking the MTA to address the issues Vertex cites in its review.
MTA officials say that the third-track plans have had ample community input and they believe the rollout plans have improved because of community input gathered last year.
“This project is a long-overdue and rare opportunity to realize so many improvements to the LIRR and local communities,” MTA spokesman Shams Tarek said.
“It’s not surprising that a report commissioned by a mayor who has been a longtime opponent of this project would draw certain conclusions,” Tarek said, referring to Floral Park Mayor Thomas Tweedy, who has raised concerns about the third-track project.
Vertex officials, in their review, called the MTA’s study “superficial” and plagued with “deficiencies,” such as an overly ambitious construction timeline and too few details on the track’s impact on nearby residents.
The MTA’s impact study is supposed to explain how residents will be affected by the additional rail, Vertex officials said, but it “instead merely promises that impacts will be figured out later as part of the design build process.”
“The DEIS exposes a hasty rush to complete the environmental review process at all costs,” Vertex officials wrote. “What the public is left with remains vague and largely conceptual in nature.”
Residents from Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Hicksville and Westbury have spoken out in public hearings against the third track, saying its presence would negatively affect their lives. Residents said they don’t want the construction noise and worried about how potential road closures would affect first responders.
“The MTA should be required to demonstrate that this $2 billion, and growing, project is necessary and the benefits outweigh the problems it will cause,” Tweedy said in an emailed statement, adding that he believes the agency “clearly has not done that to date.”