The Denton Avenue Long Island Rail Road bridge in Garden City...

The Denton Avenue Long Island Rail Road bridge in Garden City must be rebuilt as part of the Third Track project. Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority

The LIRR on Monday commenced work on the replacement of a rail bridge in Garden City, days after village officials — under the threat of contempt charges — granted the work permits that the railroad had been seeking for nearly a year.

The effort to replace the small Denton Avenue Bridge remains about 11 months behind schedule and, according to the MTA’s own lawyer, could still cause the railroad’s $2.6 billion Third Track project to go over budget and miss its targeted completion date this December.

"Our team is excited to finally begin work to install the new railroad bridge, and we will work hard to make up the months of delays that were caused by this litigation so that we can keep the LIRR Expansion Project on time for a completion by the end of the year," Third T rack project executive Anthony Tufano said Monday.

The replacement of the bridge, which must be made wider to accommodate the 10-mile-long Third Track being built between Floral Park and Hicksville — has been caught up in an ongoing feud between the Long Island Rail Road and the Village of Garden City.

The village last year sued the LIRR and its parent organization, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, alleging that utility poles erected in the village as part of the Third Track project were put too close to residents’ homes. A State Supreme Court justice threw out the suit, finding that the MTA made no promises about where the poles would go.

MTA officials said, as retaliation over losing the lawsuit, the village withheld permits needed for the bridge project. Village officials said the MTA did not follow the correct procedure in applying for the permits.

Last month, the LIRR persuaded a State Supreme Court justice to compel the village to grant the needed work permits. Even after losing its appeal, the village refused to do so. On Dec. 22 the LIRR asked the court to hold the village in contempt.

On Dec. 31, the village finally turned over the requested permits, MTA officials said.

Village officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment on the case. MTA officials said Monday they would be withdrawing their contempt motion.

Garden City homeowner Richard Corrao Jr., a member of Resident Voters Against Monster Poles — a group that has fought with the railroad over the utility poles — said Monday that, with the bridge battle apparently over, village residents are left only with "a devastated landscape."

"Maybe they got what they wanted … but clearly they’re still not willing to meaningfully address what they’ve done here," Corrao Jr. said of the MTA, LIRR and the project's contractor, 3TC. "That should be all the incentive they need — doing the right thing."

MTA officials had said that the bridge project needed to have started by August in order for the Third Track project to remain on schedule. In November, MTA Chairman Janno Lieber said project officials would "turn ourselves into a pretzel to preserve the schedule."

Also Monday, the LIRR restored 15 trains to its schedule that had been missing for most of the COVID-19 pandemic. The LIRR curtailed service in March of 2020 because of low ridership.

Railroad spokesman David Steckel said the morning rush hour, which included eight additional westbound trains, ran well, with 95% of trains operating on-time.

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