The Long Island Rail Road president has agreed to explore sending additional trains to move workers across the increasingly traffic-choked Hamptons, Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. said.
Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) said he met with LIRR president Patrick Nowakowski in his Sag Harbor office on May 19, and the two made a tentative agreement for three additional commuter train trips daily across the South Fork.
LIRR leaders and East End officials plan to discuss the plan at an early July meeting in Riverhead.
“The LIRR is committed to enhancing train service to the East End, and we are meeting with officials to talk about options for improving service and maximizing our efforts with the support of our partners in local government,” MTA spokesman Salvatore Arena said Monday.
Thiele said the service could consist of two additional morning trains and one afternoon train beginning in 2017.
But he said an agreement will likely require local governments to commit money for connecting transportation and marketing to promote ridership.
“The idea really is to use public transportation to get people off the highways in the morning,” Thiele said in an interview Saturday.
Southampton and East Hampton town officials have said that car and truck traffic has worsened in recent years as a growing “trade parade” of carpenters, landscapers and other workers drive into the towns each morning and leave each afternoon.
Thiele said train service would likely most benefit white-collar employees such as those at hospitals, schools and shops who don’t need to transport tools and equipment.
East End officials have lobbied for years for more trains, and have threatened at times to secede from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and form their own Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority.
In 2007 and 2008, a pilot program sent additional shuttle trains to the South Fork during a lengthy construction shutdown of County Road 39, the main thoroughfare through the Hamptons. In 2012, Thiele secured $37.2 million in state funds for the MTA to purchase light diesel equipment and make the shuttle service permanent on the East End.
But Thiele said the LIRR never found light diesels that were compatible with the railroad’s equipment and met federal regulations. He said that under the tentative plan, the railroad would use existing diesels for the shuttle service. The $37.2 million would be used for other capital needs.
“I view this as the first positive development for increased South Fork service in years,” Thiele said in a statement. “However, it will take a concerted effort among the LIRR, local government, business leaders and the community to make this successful.”
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, in a bid to keep motorists moving, experimented in April with making one stoplight into a blinking light during rush hour on County Road 39. But the three-day program had little effect on traffic, the supervisor said.