Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo visited Central Islip on Monday to watch a work train complete the first phase of the Long Island Rail Road’s double track project between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma.
Cuomo walked along a stretch of the new track on the Ronkonkoma line just south of East Suffolk Avenue at Gibbs Road as the work train inching westward dropped concrete crossties in the gravel bed.
Grippers on the side of a bulldozer-type machine pulled pre-laid stretches of metal rail into alignment over the concrete, and workers walking along the side of the work train used a pneumatic device to lock clips, embedded in the crossties, into the side of the rails.
Several flatcars behind the bulldozer carried pallets of crossties, and a trolley atop the flatcars ferried the concrete blocks to a feeding device behind the bulldozer.
“It clips in right there, so we can bring a train right in behind it,” Robert Oggeri, director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Capital Program Management, told the governor over the roar of the machinery.
Work began on the first phase of the double track at Ronkonkoma last August; the second phase, which includes designing a new LIRR station near Republic Airport in East Farmingdale, is tentatively scheduled for completion in 2018.
LIRR officials have said doubling the capacity on a portion of the heavily traveled Ronkonkoma line will allow the railroad to operate more trains and more quickly rebound from a service disruption in the area.
Currently, if a train breaks down on the single-track section of the line, the LIRR has no way to route trains around it.
After touring the track site, Cuomo went to the offices of Local 25 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Hauppauge to tout the work being done on the double track in Suffolk, the proposed third track on the Main Line in Nassau, and other capital projects around the region.
He told the audience in the union’s auditorium that the mechanized work train he had just watched — “a really phenomenal piece of equipment” — saved $2.5 million in labor costs, and did the work 10 times faster than the MTA has ever done before.
Cuomo said the two LIRR projects on Long Island, as well as the East Side Access project to bring the railroad into Grand Central Terminal that is in the works, will allow greater flexibility and increased services when they are all completed.
“Put simply, we are building today for a better tomorrow,” the governor said.